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Did Khalid Sheik Mohammed Kill Daniel Pearl?
January 20, 2011 4:04 PM   Subscribe

Khalid Sheik Mohammed claimed in a 2007 military hearing that he killed Daniel Pearl. His confession did not convince everyone, in part because it first emerged during CIA interrogation which included waterboarding him 183 times. (It may for that reason also be inadmissible if the Obama administration ever does try him in a civilian court.) And in fact, four other men have been convicted for the murder. But a new detailed report by The Pearl Project states that "vascular technology, or vein matching," reveals that the hands of the beheader are Mohammed's.
posted by bearwife (198 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm so glad we tortured the right guy until he'd say anything we wanted. Lovely coincidence.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:06 PM on January 20, 2011 [16 favorites]


A standard resolution video with someone's hand in it contains enough visual information about the positioning of the veins within that hand to identify that person?

Is that remotely plausible?

Not a rhetorical question
posted by ook at 4:22 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is that remotely plausible?

Not a rhetorical question


Good question. I found some technical articles claiming this technology is feasible, but the conditions to make it work weren't spelled out (including whether a standard video had enough visual information) and quite a bit of the info out there seems to be from companies like Hitachi who are marketing the technology. Maybe someone else has better google fu.
posted by bearwife at 4:25 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The relevant part of the report.

It is a pretty detailed report, but it doesn't actually give a lot of detail about this vein matching business. It is difficult for anyone to know, based on this report, how strong this evidence is.
posted by ssg at 4:28 PM on January 20, 2011


TORTURE WORKS!
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:32 PM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


To vein match meant they had to watch the video numerous times.

I wish I had never seen it once.
posted by bwg at 4:32 PM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


ook: "A standard resolution video with someone's hand in it contains enough visual information about the positioning of the veins within that hand to identify that person?"

It does if you enhance.
posted by brundlefly at 4:32 PM on January 20, 2011 [30 favorites]


He may actually have done this, but note that Mohammed also confessed to plotting to blow up buildings that weren't yet constructed when he was imprisoned.
posted by Malor at 4:33 PM on January 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


This is what extreme interrogation gets you. Since I don't believe that Cheney is going to Hell because I don't believe in an afterlife, I would settle for Cheney fully realizing what his policies have wrought before his heart gives out for good.
posted by angrycat at 4:35 PM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


What heart?

sorry sorry, too easy
posted by edgeways at 4:43 PM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I doubt Cheney would care, if he doesn't already know.
posted by dead cousin ted at 4:44 PM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yes, it's Cheney's fault that Muslim extremists hate Jews and Americans. Certainly, no Muslim extremist ever committed an atrocity against a Jew or an American before Bush Jr's posse arrived on the scene.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:45 PM on January 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is what extreme interrogation gets you. Since I don't believe that Cheney is going to Hell because I don't believe in an afterlife, I would settle for Cheney fully realizing what his policies have wrought before his heart gives out for good.

But the Pearl Project concluded that he was the beheader; so if you believe their conclusion, then torture arguably "worked" in this case.

[not defending torture]
posted by mrnutty at 4:46 PM on January 20, 2011


I'm too lazy to go fetch a bunch of citations, but yes, it is quite plausible. Like fingerprints or iris patterns, the exact layout of your blood vessels is unique, and on a man's hands it's relatively easy to pick them out (women's hands are smaller and tend to have a layer of subcutaneous fat). Of course I don't know what specific photos or video the guy employed in making his identification, and so I can't guess on how reliable it is in this case.

But going about it in a systematic way is pretty simple. Venous blood is darker and has that blue appearance, so you can get some objectivity straight away by using a digital filter to highlight vein patterns if you want. You can mark the points where blood vessels join/separate, which will probably be pretty distinctive to begin with. Then, the basic anatomy of the human hand varies very little so you if you have a photograph of one, you can measure the distance from the wrist to each of the 4 knuckles quite consistently. Combine that with the blood vessel branching, which and you will have a pretty objective coordinate system. With a sample size of only a few thousand, you can establish the statistical likelihood of a match and by implication, the risk of a false positive.

I did a quick search on 'vein matching' and straightaway found a bunch of papers developing the idea for security systems. So it's not perfect, but probably pretty damn good - much like fingerprints. The first man in England convicted on the basis of fingerprint evidence complained that it was "a hazy and fallacious method imported from France, where many innocent men had been convicted by it."
posted by anigbrowl at 4:48 PM on January 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


stopped clock, twice a day, etc.
posted by localroger at 4:48 PM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


You know, in all the debates about waterboarding, I had always assumed it was something that would be performed only a few times at most on any given individual. I imagine the information that someone could be subjected to it 183 times might have altered the argument considerably.
posted by Wemmick at 4:48 PM on January 20, 2011


"Orders come in from command. We gotta waterboard him again."
"Are you fucking kidding me?"
"Nope. Got the order right here."
"Haven't we waterboarded him enough already?"
"Apparently not."
"What will this make it, Sarge? One hundred eighty-two?"
"One hundred eighty-three."
"Well, fuck me. I must have dozed off there. Jesus. Fuck."
"You wanna hold, or pour?"
"I'll hold. I can't stand looking in his eyes."
"Fuck, I wanted to hold. You held last time."
"We'll rock, paper, scissors for it."
"Lizard, Spock?"
"Fuck you and your Lizard, Spock. You go Spock on me, I'll fucking waterboard you."
"Nan-noo, nan-noo!"
"That was Mork, you idiot. Mork."
"Sorry. Just trying to lighten the mood."
"You know, I really fucking hate you."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:56 PM on January 20, 2011 [52 favorites]


Okay, we had one of those fancy new vein-pattern scanners here at our office for getting into the area with all the machines. That damn thing needed you to crush your hand up against the sensor in *just* the right way for it to register....even the slightest variation in hand position/distance would fail.

What I'm saying is that I don't believe this for a second.
posted by nightchrome at 4:57 PM on January 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yes, it's Cheney's fault that Muslim extremists hate Jews and Americans. Certainly, no Muslim extremist ever committed an atrocity against a Jew or an American before Bush Jr's posse arrived on the scene.

Obiwanwasabi, no one is saying that. People are questioning whether or not the confession carries any weight given the dubious effectiveness of torture. Torture which was by and by more enthusiastically supported by Bush and his cronies than any other administration.

Please check your straw man at the door before entering next time. Thanks.
posted by boubelium at 4:57 PM on January 20, 2011 [22 favorites]


It does if you enhance.
I'm hazarding a guess here that the CIA or whoever investigated this had access to a better version of the recording than ogrish.
posted by dougrayrankin at 4:59 PM on January 20, 2011


Also, does nobody else think that... you know, looking at this image, he totally couldn't be involved. I mean, I see that and I think "Dude, I was liek, so totally drunk last night... like I totally don't remember anything bra!"
posted by dougrayrankin at 5:03 PM on January 20, 2011


Yes, it's Cheney's fault that Muslim extremists hate Jews and Americans

Apparently, if you waterboard a strawman, he'll argue about anything.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:04 PM on January 20, 2011 [25 favorites]


Even if he's guilty, he should be released.
posted by Drexen at 5:05 PM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Neither the FBI nor the CIA really have any credibility on this issue - they both have an extremely vested interest in validating the use of torture. Even then the evidence is not conclusive. The technique is "has not been widely tested" and "is not as reliable as other biometrics techniques such as fingerprints". From the rest of the report it doesn't sound like they actually used "vein matching" as much as "yep, sure looks like his hand".

The degree to which the US government bungled everything related to KSM is a disgrace, most importantly in their use of torture but also, and relatedly, in their complete inability to manage a criminal investigation.

As as far as saying that this is proof that torture works, they haven't told us how many other people also confessed under torture to the same heinous act.
posted by ChrisHartley at 5:05 PM on January 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

Of course torture "works".

But I remember a time when it was beneath the dignity of civilized people to judge it on that basis.

And I'm not that old.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:05 PM on January 20, 2011 [30 favorites]


I imagine the information that someone could be subjected to it 183 times might have altered the argument considerably.

Or that of the 70,000 or so prisoners taken by the United States, over 100 have died in custody of "natural causes", and all but a fraction were not apprehended by US forces, but turned in by locals claiming their prisoners were Taliban/Al Qaeda.

The first POW who died while in American custody was Dilawar, and his story seems to be typical:
Four days before, on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Id al-Fitr, Mr. Dilawar set out from his tiny village of Yakubi in a prized new possession, a used Toyota sedan that his family bought for him a few weeks earlier to drive as a taxi.

On the day that he disappeared, Mr. Dilawar's mother had asked him to gather his three sisters from their nearby villages and bring them home for the holiday. However, he needed gas money and decided instead to drive to the provincial capital, Khost, about 45 minutes away, to look for fares.

At a taxi stand there, he found three men headed back toward Yakubi. On the way, they passed a base used by American troops, Camp Salerno, which had been the target of a rocket attack that morning.

Militiamen loyal to the guerrilla commander guarding the base, Jan Baz Khan, stopped the Toyota at a checkpoint. They confiscated a broken walkie-talkie from one of Mr. Dilawar's passengers. In the trunk, they found an electric stabilizer used to regulate current from a generator. (Mr. Dilawar's family said the stabilizer was not theirs; at the time, they said, they had no electricity at all.)

The four men were detained and turned over to American soldiers at the base as suspects in the attack. Mr. Dilawar and his passengers spent their first night there handcuffed to a fence, so they would be unable to sleep. When a doctor examined them the next morning, he said later, he found Mr. Dilawar tired and suffering from headaches but otherwise fine.

In February, an American military official disclosed that the Afghan guerrilla commander whose men had arrested Mr. Dilawar and his passengers had himself been detained. The commander, Jan Baz Khan, was suspected of attacking Camp Salerno himself and then turning over innocent "suspects" to the Americans in a ploy to win their trust, the military official said.

The three passengers in Mr. Dilawar's taxi were sent home from Guantánamo in March 2004, 15 months after their capture, with letters saying they posed "no threat" to American forces. -NYT 2005
KSM is a deeply disturbed psychopath who needs to be in jail for his whole life. But torturing him not only ruined the option to legally and justly convict him for his crimes, but made the moral distinction between his solution to solve external threats and our solution disappear altogether.
posted by notion at 5:05 PM on January 20, 2011 [44 favorites]


KSM is a deeply disturbed psychopath who needs to be in jail for his whole life. But torturing him not only ruined the option to legally and justly convict him for his crimes, but made the moral distinction between his solution to solve external threats and our solution disappear altogether.
Amen.
posted by dougrayrankin at 5:11 PM on January 20, 2011


Whether he killed Pearl or not, Mohammed is pretty clearly guilty of planning 9/11, which would be more than enough to get him the death penalty or life without parole. Assuming that there is enough evidence to convict him of planning 9/11, the right thing to do would be to try him using that evidence and throw the rest out. Not holding my breath for that to happen though. if the Obama justice department exhibits any moral courage at all it will be the first time.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:13 PM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Drexen: "Even if he's guilty, he should be released."

I wonder if you could honestly say the same if Daniel Pearl was your brother, your uncle, your Dad, your husband, or your friend.
posted by rain at 5:18 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're so vain
You probably think this thread is about you
posted by Sailormom at 5:21 PM on January 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Wemmick, one of my guiding principles for providing inputs in programming, police powers, or letting someone do this thing I don't like "just this one time," is to remind myself what can be abused will be abused.

If I say, "Okay, you can do this" to some employee, invariably, the situation arises over and over, and eventually what was once a one-off is now a requirement. Think of the taser, once a (mostly) non-lethal alternative to shooting someone, it now occupies a position on the force spectrum between "asking nicely" and "yeah, I maybe don't want to deal with this guy." Police now tase children, children who could simply be picked up and put elsewhere.

Waterboard once? Sure. Twice, why not? You've already done it once. If you put a tool in someone's hand, resign yourself to it perhaps being used quite a bit more than you'd expect.
posted by adipocere at 5:21 PM on January 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Yes, it's Cheney's fault that Muslim extremists hate Jews and Americans.

Because when dealing with extremists, the best answer is to then fulfill the very things they've accused you of, in order to prove the very point they're making alienate them from the mainstream and reduce their support network, right?

Torture doesn't make terrorists afraid of you, it makes normal people afraid of you. And when that happens, terrorists start looking more reasonable.
posted by yeloson at 5:25 PM on January 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


anigbrowl, there have been many assertions that fingerprints are unique, but I haven't seen a whole lot of scientific evidence supporting that. You could start with Simon Cole's article in the NY Times on 2001-05-13, which is republished at TruthInJustice.org.

Although I suspect that much of the "does it match" is really about processes by which one would claim that fingerprints match, which leads directly back to ook's question.
posted by straw at 5:31 PM on January 20, 2011


I wonder if you could honestly say the same if Daniel Pearl was your brother, your uncle, your Dad, your husband, or your friend.

I observe that relatives of a crime victim are not permitted to serve as jurors in the trial of the accused.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:31 PM on January 20, 2011 [22 favorites]


A standard resolution video with someone's hand in it contains enough visual information about the positioning of the veins within that hand to identify that person?

Is that remotely plausible?


Doubtful. Most of these forensic techniques (fiber matching, bite pattern matching, shoe print matching, even some fingerprint analysis techniques) are pseudoscientific nonsense. About as useful as phrenology in determining who committed a crime. They have not been rigorously tested; there has been no statistical analysis done on their error rates; there's not even a good fundamental understanding of the physics and biology that serve as their underlying principles ("the exact layout of your blood vessels is unique"? Really? At what resolution? What does "exact" mean in this context?)

So, no more plausible than the other witchcraft that regularly gets admitted as expert evidence in US courts.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:32 PM on January 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


Drexen: "Even if he's guilty, he should be released."

I wonder if you could honestly say the same if Daniel Pearl was your brother, your uncle, your Dad, your husband, or your friend.


Thankfully, we don't make legal determinations based on the opinions of the victims' relatives.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:35 PM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


When Daniel Pearl was murdered, I was 12, and really couldn't (and didn't want to) appreciate the horror of what had happened. I didn't even remember that his wife was six months pregnant at the time, which now strikes me as the most devastating detail. Their son is almost nine now. I wonder how he is, how much he knows, how developments like this affect him? Wishing the family well tonight, and here's a belated

.

(and another for America's moral standing, also belated: . )
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:35 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"A standard resolution video with someone's hand in it contains enough visual information about the positioning of the veins within that hand to identify that person?"

Enhance!
posted by dgaicun at 5:38 PM on January 20, 2011


Thankfully, we don't make legal determinations based on the opinions of the victims' relatives.

That's why they call it the "the justice system" and not "the revenge system", in fact.
posted by mhoye at 5:41 PM on January 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


Even if he's guilty, he should be released.

If he murdered Pearl or master minded 911 or both, he should be convicted in a civilian court and imprisoned.

I also think the waterboarders and those who authorized the waterboarding should be prosecuted and convicted in civilian court, and imprisoned.

I.e., what was done to Mohammed does not make his murders (if he committed them) all right. My question is -- what's the quality and reliability of the evidence against him?
posted by bearwife at 5:46 PM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Obiwanwasabi, no one is saying that.

Yes, they did. Here, I'll point to it, slowly, so you can keep up:

"This is what extreme interrogation gets you...Cheney fully realizing what his policies have wrought...

Now, we might be a bit slow down here in the Southern Hemisphere, being descended from in-bred convicts and all, but that looks to me like somebody saying that Daniel Pearl's murder - 'this' - was provoked - 'got', 'wrought' - by the extreme interrogation techniques - 'extreme interrogation' - attributed to Cheney's - 'Cheney' - government. The implication - stay with me, I know it's confusing - is that these policies were a signficant, if not the most significant motivation for Pearl's captors and murderers, and that if there was no such policy of extreme interrogation, something like this would not have happened, and that no Muslim would have any desire or motivation to want trouble with the West, or with a Jew, or with a Jewish American, and would have no reason whatsoever to, say, cut his head off like a goat. Sure, they've been fighting for hundreds of years, but like, fucking Cheney, am I right, man?

If that's not what it meant, then maybe the author should have used words other than 'this', 'is', 'what', 'extreme', 'interrogation'', 'gets', 'you', 'Cheney', policies', and 'wrought' in that order and proximity. Because, you know, a reader might treat that as a sentence, and treat that sentence as a claim about something.

Please check your straw man at the door before entering next time. Thanks.
Apparently, if you waterboard a strawman, he'll argue about anything.

Clue by four - it's not a straw man if it's a direct quote. But I'm sure you're right, and 'omg waterboarding bad it was all Cheney' is much better than trying to understand the real, complex forces driving the agendas of Muslim extremists around the world. Or being able to keep track of a calendar and remember little facts like 'Muslim extremists flew planes into buildings before hipster bloggers had ever heard of waterboarding, Gitmo, or Abu Ghraib'.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:59 PM on January 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Torturing KSM had very little to do with extracting information or deterring others who might consider becoming terrorists. It was about three things:
1) Revenge. Pure and simple biblical eye for an eye bullshit.
2) Making it impossible to try him -- Cheney and Bush never wanted him to see the inside of a courtroom. They want him in permanent detention and limbo. You can't let him go because you made him to dangerous, you can't kill him because it would violate due process. Really its just another level of revenge
3) Harden the Al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership -- Bush and Cheney didn't want a negotiated settlement, they wanted war. A war that came with: Your with us or against us as source of limitless political power. What better way than to to brutalize one of your enemies leaders that compromise is impossible. We have essentially committed to total destruction of Al Qaeda with a human sacrifice at the core.

So there you have it. It makes we want to throw up. There is nothing that can be done with him. Let him go? Politically impossible. Try him for murder, good luck with that. You can't untorture someone.

The best we can do is build political will to try Bush and Cheney, but right now that's politically an non-starter. Heck apparently the right wing is so sensitive that even telling Sarah Palin she should cool it is the equivalent of a blood libel. Ironic given that Sarah Palin actually kidnaps a christian child for sacrifice during pagan rites of spring, but I digress.
posted by humanfont at 6:03 PM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Vein matching? Seriously?

Aren't veins in a fairly standard configuration regardless of the individual?

Looks like someone's gunning for an Ignobel.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:12 PM on January 20, 2011


You can't say that torture never works, sometimes it does. What you can say is that it produces results that are all over the map, and can be hard to determine the veracity of easily. What you can say is torture is seductive if called by a different name, because it is emotionally gratifying and produces the illusion of always working, what you can say is that practices of torture can lead to further practices of the same... and what you can really say is that it is morally abhorrent.
posted by edgeways at 6:14 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


mrnutty writes "But the Pearl Project concluded that he was the beheader; so if you believe their conclusion, then torture arguably 'worked' in this case."

But they don't know whether to believe the results of their torture.

anigbrowl writes "The first man in England convicted on the basis of fingerprint evidence complained that it was 'a hazy and fallacious method imported from France, where many innocent men had been convicted by it.'"

Well plenty of people have been arrested or convicted at least partially on false positives of a finger print match.
posted by Mitheral at 6:18 PM on January 20, 2011


"Vein Matching" and fiber matching and bite mark evidence are vague inconclusive horseshit used well by charismatic prosecutors to convince jurors that their "instinct" about the defendant is correct.
posted by vapidave at 6:19 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmmmm...having your head cut off vs. waterboarding. I'd say KSM got the better deal. Fuck him.
posted by VicNebulous at 6:35 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Veins are definitely nonstandard but you can easily move them about by shooting up. Trust me, as a former IV drug user and current fertility treatment patient who has had to have blood tests every day for weeks during a cycle, if they were standard, the phlebotomists would not have to poke you multiple times to find them. I ruined my left arm myself (haven't shot up for over 20 years and they are still in hard to find) and the people at the fertility clinic seem determined to do the same to the right.

At least drug addicts have one less thing to worry about.
posted by Maias at 6:44 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if you could honestly say the same if Daniel Pearl was your brother, your uncle, your Dad, your husband, or your friend.

I would hope so, but it doesn't have any bearing anyway. I believe that anyone subjected to that kind of monstrous breach of justice should be released, regardless of guilt, so that torture cannot ever be a tool of justice. Of course, I know that's not politically feasible.
posted by Drexen at 6:51 PM on January 20, 2011


I think that torture of any kind is wrong at all times. Just to have that out there.

Also, if you think this "vein technology" is something technically implausible, I suggest you google the efficacy of other similarly supposedly implausible technologies, such as gait recognition via shadows.

If anyone here thinks for a second we have any idea what "their" real capacities are, they are ignoring the last 60 years of history.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:56 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if you could honestly say the same if Daniel Pearl was your brother, your uncle, your Dad, your husband, or your friend.

Most of my friends and relatives would not take kindly to the notion that their death might be used to as justification to completely gut the concept of due process in the United States.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 6:58 PM on January 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


If that's not what it meant, then maybe the author should have used words other than 'this', 'is', 'what', 'extreme', 'interrogation'', 'gets', 'you', 'Cheney', policies', and 'wrought' in that order and proximity. Because, you know, a reader might treat that as a sentence, and treat that sentence as a claim about something.

It seemed pretty obvious from the original post that the "this" being discussed was the ethical quagmire of corruption, hypocrisy, and moral darkness that we currently find ourselves in as a nation: 9/11 handed us the moral high ground after a long history of shitty meddling, and we promptly raced down off the hill to roll around in the mud.

To suggest that angrycat's comment meant that "water-boarding caused Pearl's murder" is absurd; there's simply nothing there to suggest that she meant that. You seem to be casting about looking for something that could possibly fit a talking point about "Everyone blames America."
posted by verb at 7:04 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


digitalprimate,

I don't think the fact that the efficacy of some other random identification technology speaks to whether or not this "vein matching" business is for real. I've certainly never heard of it before, and I doubt that they shot the beheading video in HD. All I seem to be able to find on "vein matching" refers specifically to this case. This type of thing plays perfectly into the predisposition of people to accept bullshit dressed up as science. Furthermore, because it's coming from the FBI I'm particularly confused as to why people are taking this as slam-dunk-checkmate evidence of anything other than the government covering its ass.
posted by Hoopo at 7:11 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The justification offered for torture that it reveals information unobtainable by other means. Yet here, apparently, we now do have that information by other means, namely vein scanning. Therefore, even if we stipulate that torture is ok when no other means exist, this report does not excuse KSM's torture; in fact, it removes an excuse for it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:21 PM on January 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


If anyone here thinks for a second we have any idea what "their" real capacities are, they are ignoring the last 60 years of history.

Whose?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:22 PM on January 20, 2011


I wonder if you could honestly say the same if Daniel Pearl was your brother, your uncle, your Dad, your husband, or your friend.

I wonder if a judge would let you be on the jury deciding the fate of a criminal accused of murdering your brother, your uncle, your Dad, your husband, or your friend.

Oh, right, of course not, because we acknowledge that decisions of guilt or innocence or punishment should be made by persons without a personal interest or emotional connection to the case being decided.
posted by orthogonality at 7:27 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


"vein match" Piffle I say and I'm an uninformed outsider.

I say they tortured the guy, sorry no, water boarded the guy 183 times until he coughed, pardon the pun, then when they realised that his evidence might not be admissible invented this vein matching thing.
posted by the noob at 7:31 PM on January 20, 2011


You can't say that torture never works, sometimes it does.

Torture always works. Always.

The problem is that the goals of torture are to extract a confession and to inflict punishment; the veracity of the confession and the just nature of the punishment are entirely, utterly irrelevant; it's about hurting people until they say what you want. That's why these "enhanced interrogation techniques" are cribbed straight from old SERE manuals that outline what a American military captive can expect to suffer at the hands of an enemy regime whose goal is to extract a confession from political prisoners for propaganda purposes.

If you put the thumbscrews to anybody long enough they will eventually confess to anything you tell them to confess to whether they did it or not. Everybody involved understands this, and it's fact that is fundamentally at odds with modern ideas of justice, punishment and civilized society, where people should not be punished before they are found to be guilty of a crime, and the punishment should not be cruel, unusual or excessive.

That's why torturing people is a war crime, in short.

And the fact of it is, this shit really matters. Does anybody remember the first Gulf War? Entire divisions of the Iraqi military just walking up to the nearest G.I. they could find and surrendering, because they thought the worst-case scenario there was a shower, an MRE and a pack of smokes? That really used to happen; America used to really be the good guys, and just being the good guys saved a lot of American lives. But after Abu Grahib, that all just stopped, because fighting and maybe being killed is a straight-up better choice than surrendering and maybe being tortured to death and maybe being sexually humiliated beforehand.

Torturing people is something the bad guys do. It's the difference between who the good guys and bad guys are, and watching people trying to convince themselves that torturing people can lead to just, good-guy outcomes is just a sad, pathetic, miserable thing to see from people who should be better than that, and can remember when they were.
posted by mhoye at 7:40 PM on January 20, 2011 [112 favorites]


Veins are definitely nonstandard...

Hi Maias: Ok I'm curious about this. Certainly some, like the Superior vena cava are standard. Looking here I find several named that follow a consistent path and that I think I could find in a cadaver. I mean there is the one or two in the wrist and the one in the neck that you use to check if someone has a pulse right?
Perhaps their paths vary increasingly the farther from the heart.
Anyway congratulations on 20+ and I wish you luck with the fertility treatment.
posted by vapidave at 7:41 PM on January 20, 2011


The implication - stay with me, I know it's confusing - is that these policies were a signficant, if not the most significant motivation for Pearl's captors and murderers, and that if there was no such policy of extreme interrogation, something like this would not have happened, and that no Muslim would have any desire or motivation to want trouble with the West, or with a Jew, or with a Jewish American, and would have no reason whatsoever to, say, cut his head off like a goat. Sure, they've been fighting for hundreds of years, but like, fucking Cheney, am I right, man?

The point is that Cheney -- whose people were largely responsible for legalizing and recommending torture according to "The Dark Side" by Jane Mayer -- and people like him have been invading, overthrowing, and manipulating politics in the middle east, which is the reason people like KSM hate the US. The murder of Daniel Pearl was gruesome and evil, and I hope justice is served. But it is only a part of the carnage we have been creating in that part of the world since the end of WWI.

Now, just because this is the first time we directly tortured people doesn't mean it's the first time that we have had people tortured in the middle east. Our boys in the CIA trained the SAVAK secret police that murdered thousands in Iran under the Shah from 1953-1979. The training and weaponry that enables Israel to continue slowly digesting the Palestinian people are American made. The political support of Mubarak from 1981 through the present to suppress political will in Egypt is largely American, not to discount the billions in aid we give him every year. When Pakistan finally fails, it will not only be a fundamentalist state bordering India and China, but it will have the nukes that we allowed them to develop in the 80s. A million muslims died during the Iran-Iraq war that we funded in the 80s, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children probably starved after we abandoned our old henchman Saddam in the 90s. Today, Iraqis are still tortured to death in the same dungeons we promised to close because it allows the sitting government to stay in power, which in turn allows us to develop the oil fields we now have access to.

Our business there is to basically make a deal with a small group of rulers, rob regular Arabs of their national resources by corrupting their government, and then call the resulting kleptocracy a "model of democracy" irregardless of whether they allow democratic institutions in their country.

When civilians die in Afghanistan and Iraq, it doesn't even make the news anymore. Just think about that for a second. The gruesome death of some innocent Iraqi or Afghani is so commonplace that it's not even worth mentioning. Imagine if every civilian death was covered as widely, with the same terrible imagery illuminating the horror of war, and the same calls for justice against the perpetrators who unjustly took their lives.

It's too bad the whole truth is bad for business, because I know the American people wouldn't stand for it if they knew what it was.
posted by notion at 7:49 PM on January 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


Even if he's guilty, he should be released.

I wonder if you could honestly say the same if Daniel Pearl was your brother, your uncle, your Dad, your husband, or your friend.


I couldn't possibly argue with either of these points of view, as it would mean appearing to support the equally ridiculous other.

Let America borrow a moral compass, let KSM be punished appropriately for any ghastly crimes he can be proven to have committed, and let no friend or relative of Daniel Pearl's be responsible for determining the verdict at his trial. Is that unreasonable?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:54 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Picking up straw's query here as well...

Doubtful. Most of these forensic techniques (fiber matching, bite pattern matching, shoe print matching, even some fingerprint analysis techniques) are pseudoscientific nonsense. About as useful as phrenology in determining who committed a crime.

Going to the opposite extreme isn't what I'd call intellectually rigorous either. I never claimed that the method I outlined would be reliable and certainly would not argue that cases should hinge on individual bits of circumstantial evidence.

What I did say was that one could collect data in a sufficiently systematic fashion that one would be able to derive the statistical likelihood of a reliable match in a repeatable and objectively measurable way. Since I didn't know what visual records were used in this particular case, or which specific methods, I declined to endorse the conclusions of the article: I only said I considered the general idea feasible, and suggested the outlines of an analytical framework. The strongest claim I made for it was that in theory you could get an ID that's 'not perfect, but pretty damn good.'

I do not, in fact, know just how distinctive such patterns are with any certainty. But I do know, empirically, that while people often look similar, only some twins sibling are known to be truly identical (I've yet to hear of identical triplets). The mere fact that we can tell different people apart most of the time simply by looking at them is a testament to the many variations in biometric data - and that easily observable difference also exist in trees, large animals and so forth. As long as we quantify the risk of error by taking a rigorous approach then we're doing science, not pseudoscience.

They have not been rigorously tested; there has been no statistical analysis done on their error rates; there's not even a good fundamental understanding of the physics and biology that serve as their underlying principles [...]

Well, not by me in this MeFi comment, obviously. And similar objections have been raised by Cole, as well as Saks and Koehler (all links are pdfs of law review articles). Kaye draws a distinction between identification and individualization, and advocates a Bayesian approach to calculating the probability of an accurate forensic match.

The National Academy of Sciences has examined the meeting of law and forensic science in detail in a recent report (looooong pdf - about 350pp), observing that false convictions or civil judgments can result from scientific, institutional, legal and ethical failures. Scholars such as McMurtrie and Moriarty have expanded upon the risks and incidence of error shown in the report.

So when forensic evidence is introduced into a case, hell yeah it should be challenged - for legal admissibility, methodological validity, statistical reliability, and ethical credibility. And indeed, jurisprudence has changed significantly in recent years so that opposing counsel can examine and challenge forensic evidence or expert testimony in pretrial hearings and the like. And no doubt procedures will need to evolve further in response to new technology, advances in psychology, and even analysis of legal procedure; the court system provides a rich corpus of data for the interested stats nerd.

So, no more plausible than the other witchcraft that regularly gets admitted as expert evidence in US courts.

This kind of thing irritates me, because it's like the anti-science arguments of climate change deniers, creationists, and religious zealots. Science fails to explain things, or falls short of its claimed predictive power some of the time, just as the courts sometimes fail to provide a just result or worse, perpetuate an injustice unnecessarily. It does not follow that science or the legal system as a whole is unreliable. If someone sits on a jury with that attitude, they're ignoring the evidence in favor of their own prejudices just as much as the person who unquestioningly accepts every proposition.

In response to a few general questions...
Aren't veins in a fairly standard configuration regardless of the individual?
Fairly standard, but much less so than, say, bones (of which most people have the same number in the same order). If you had good sample data to work with, and map vein branching in reference to something obvious like metacarpal bones (the ones in the back of your hand) and where the radius and ulna join the wrist, then you can get a high degree of precision from relatively few measurements.

Think about the same thing with faces. Anyone who's not deformed has two eyes, a nose, a mouth, a chin etc. If you take passport style photos then the obvious things to measure are the distance between the corners of eyes, width of the lips, and distance across the widest part of the face. You don't have to get into fudging measurements about exactly where the tip of the nose is, the geometry from the corners alone will get you past 99% accuracy. It's so good now that a lot of digital cameras have face recognition built in for autofocus and so on. Computers let you refine your matching algorithms very quickly and take a lot of the subjectivity out of the process.

If you just start comparing vein patterns or even passport photos on two photographs to see if it could be the same person, then of course you can quickly convince yourself that you see matches which may not be there, just like UFO buffs. That's total BS, and the lack of detail in this report about what methods they used is why I can't endorse it. But if you test your methods against a decent-sized dataset, then you can measure the predictive power of your system just like any other sort of scientific data.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:06 PM on January 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Is authoritarianism, as seen by the torture fanboys here, inevitable in the arc of any society's history?
posted by maxwelton at 8:16 PM on January 20, 2011


So it's not perfect, but probably pretty damn good - much like fingerprints.

In which case, I'd acquit.

Fingerprints are *lousy* evidence. Seriously. Matching them is a freaking guessing game, and it's one played poorly. One of the great frauds committed on us -- one that has sent many people to prison, or to their deaths, for crimes they did not commit -- is that fingerprinting is a reliable method of identification.

It is -- if, and only if, you compare a set of full prints to another. The partial print matches asserted as complete identification are, at best, a guess.

More often than not? That "match" is, at best, a guess. At worst? An outright lie designed to secure a conviction.

As to matching "vein prints" on standard def video after unknown generations of copies? The correct answer is to punch the prosecutor in the face repeatedly until they promise never to pull such bullshit again.

As to KSM? Almost certainly a fundamentally evil man, almost certainly a criminal in the United States -- and, because of prosecutorial misconduct, he should be *freed* and *absolved* of all accusations made against him.

Why? Because we fucked up. We cheated. And the correct answer is to punish the cheater, even if they're right. To quote Judge Herbert Jay Stein, after being repeatedly coerced by the US State Department to ignore the rights of the accused and hand him over to the mercy of the Executive...
When a judge sentences, he commits a defendant to the custody -- in the United States he says, 'I commit to the custody of the Attorney General of the United States' -- et cetera. Here I suppose he says, I commit to the custody of the Commandant, or the Secretary of State, or whatever ... I will not do it. Not under these circumstances. ...

I sentence this defendant to time served. You ... are a free man right now."
posted by eriko at 8:24 PM on January 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


"Most of my friends and relatives would not take kindly to the notion that their death might be used to as justification to completely gut the concept of due process in the United States."

Perhaps I should clarify. I was responding to this statement--which was the whole post: "Even if he's guilty, he should be released." I read this as: even if we know--beyond all doubt--KSM beheaded an innocent man, Daniel Pearl, we should release the murderer on principle. Now, if I misinterpreted Drexen's statement, then I certainly apologize. However, I would disagree with the idea of setting a known sociopathic killer free because we don't like what happened to him after he was caught. And yes, for the record, I'm very much against torture too. It should have never happened and should never happen to anyone again.
posted by rain at 8:31 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, if you think this "vein technology" is something technically implausible, I suggest you google the efficacy of other similarly supposedly implausible technologies, such as gait recognition via shadows.

It's not that it's technically implausible, it's that there is a very narrow way that circulatory systems work coupled with their being 6,000,000,000 or so circulatory systems currently in operation. Prompted by your suggestion I did google and read abstracts for a half of an hour. Read this. I failed to find any claim that you could identify a person by their gait, nevermind the shadow of their gait. I suggest you support your point with peer-reviewed articles rather than telling people to look it up. And please watch less CSI and recuse yourself from jury duty.
posted by vapidave at 8:34 PM on January 20, 2011


Here's a long transcript of a tribunal hearing into KSM's status as an enemy combatant in which he frankly admits that he was responsible for Daniel Pearl's murder. My impression upon reading the transcript was that he was fully in command of his faculties and that he wasn't regurgitating some "confession: that had been extracted by torture. Of course, he might have been lying, or deluded, or the transcript itself may be false. But it's not as if the only evidence against him is some freeze-frame of a guy's hand.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:35 PM on January 20, 2011


Fingerprints are *lousy* evidence.

Scroll down to 00:22:20 for one of the best give-and-takes from the television show NUMB3RS. Charlie talks to a fingerprint expert.

00:24:21 CJIS has an accuracy rate of 99.7%.
00:24:23 That's 3,000 mistakes per every million searches.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:39 PM on January 20, 2011


I read this as: even if we know--beyond all doubt--KSM beheaded an innocent man, Daniel Pearl, we should release the murderer on principle.

If the principle is "you can't lock someone up without a conviction obtained via a trial where the defendant is afforded all the protections he's entitled to under the law" then yes, we should release the murderer on that principle. What's the alternative? Keep people locked up because we just don't like them?

If Daniel Pearl's family is so outraged by KSM walking around they should direct that rage to the dumbasses whose conduct destroyed our ability to convict him fairly.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 8:41 PM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


My impression upon reading the transcript was that he was fully in command of his faculties and that he wasn't regurgitating some "confession: that had been extracted by torture

It's certainly not inconceivable that he did it, but what I saw there was that he was reading a numbered list of his crimes. I'm not sure how you reached that conclusion.
posted by Hoopo at 9:16 PM on January 20, 2011


If Daniel Pearl's family is so outraged by KSM walking around they should direct that rage to the dumbasses whose conduct destroyed our ability to convict him fairly.

And if you're so outraged by KSM's treatment you should direct that rage at your government, instead of breezily laying its crimes at the feet of a family who have, as far as I can tell, responded to a senseless, cruel loss with remarkable grace. Blame your countrymen and their outrage for letting this happen, not Daniel Pearl's French, Buddhist widow.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:39 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


However, I would disagree with the idea of setting a known sociopathic killer free because we don't like what happened to him after he was caught.

It's not a matter of "we don't like what happened to him".

It's that what the US government has done in Guantanamo is illegal. Under Federal Law, under the US Constitution's 8th Amendment, under international law. We've committed war crimes for which we hanged Germans and Japanese.

And we've diminished ourselves as a nation. Morally and in terms of our standing in the eyes of other nations.

9/11 was a terrible crime, but we've hurt ourselves far more in its aftermath than KSM or Osama hurt us that day.

And under our judicial precedents, we don't admit into evidence, evidence illegally obtained. (I wish we did, but that we also severely punished government agents who obtained that evidence illegally. Our courts, however, have decided that discarding illegally obtained evidence is a better deterrent.)

It's not a matter of whether we "like" or "don't like" that KSM was tortured. It's a matter that our nation cannot endure without upholding the rule of law. For our own selfish good -- and our moral health -- we have to obey our own laws, our government and President have to obey our laws, and that means freeing the evil and almost certainly guilty Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
posted by orthogonality at 9:49 PM on January 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


As to KSM? Almost certainly a fundamentally evil man, almost certainly a criminal in the United States -- and, because of prosecutorial misconduct, he should be *freed* and *absolved* of all accusations made against him.

I'm sorry but that's insane. Presumably you don't actually mean prosecutorial misconduct, but rather misconduct by his interrogators and handlers -- the rough equivalent of police misconduct. The remedy for such misconduct under US law is typically the exclusionary rule, which means that the fruits of the wrongdoing get thrown out of court. So you toss the confession. The prosecution may or may not decide that it has enough other evidence to proceed. But you don't "free" and "absolve" the guy "of all accusations made against him" because we "cheated." That is not the rule. I don't even know how one would formulate a rule from that.
posted by eugenen at 9:56 PM on January 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


You're right, eugenen, that we don't free an accused simply because the police used illegal tactics to obtain evidence. But the argument isn't just that he should be let go because he was tortured. The argument is that any statements he made after being tortured can't be used against him, and there's barely enough evidence beyond his statements to charge him (let alone convict him) with a crime.

But whatever, that's not really my call to make. Even if we don't assume a dismissal or an acquittal, we have to assume a situation where an acquittal is at least possible. And what then? If we were a respectable country we'd free him is what, but I have strong doubts that we're a respectable country anymore.

This whole conversation is darkly funny since I think the last thing KSM can expect is a fair shake from the American judicial system. He will die in American custody, uncharged, as certainly as he's probably guilty of the crimes we think he's guilty of.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:07 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Doublewhiskey: I agree with most of what you say. The situation is fucked up beyond all repair.

I am opposed to the use of torture whether or not it "works." I think those who enabled it and conducted it in our name should be punished.

That being said, if it were my call, if I had to be the guy who decided whether to let KSM walk free because a conviction in civilian court was not possible after the way he was treated, I will say straight up: I don't think I would do it. Not knowing what we know. Maybe that's cowardly. Maybe I don't have the courage of my convictions. Maybe I've fallen into the trap of thinking 9/11 is sui generis. But I wouldn't do it.
posted by eugenen at 10:24 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


if I had to be the guy who decided whether to let KSM walk free because a conviction in civilian court was not possible after the way he was treated, I will say straight up: I don't think I would do it.

Then we've lost any claim to moral authority on the world stage. If I had to be the guy who decided whether we'd ever extradite a person to America again I will say straight up: I know I wouldn't do it. You can't trust a country that *usually* gives its criminal defendants due process and only fudges the line when it has a *really really good reason.*

I shudder to think what it must be like for a captured American soldier who knows how we've treated our captives these past few years.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:31 PM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


if I had to be the guy who decided whether to let KSM walk free because a conviction in civilian court was not possible after the way he was treated, I will say straight up: I don't think I would do it.

With what legal justification?

Or can anyone be deprived of his liberty, without due process, without recourse, just because your private Benthamite calculation concludes that would be a good thing?

Would you "cut down every law in England to do that"?

Or if not you, personally as a vigilante or member of lynch-mob, to whom do you trust this power? Who gets to be "the guy" who can permanently disappear anyone in the vague, unexplained interests of the state?

The elected President? The appointed FBI Director? The Junta? A "revolutionary tribunal"? A death squad? The Stasi? Operation Phoenix? A Court of Star Chamber? An Inquisition? A "People's Court" under Judge-President Roland Freisler?

We've tried all these things. Tree-cutters in every age have "cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil". To "save the Republic", to "secure the Revolution", to "eliminate the parasites", "to protect the free world from Communism", and to "fight terrorism".

With disastrous results, practically and morally.

Nobody today will defend what happened to Fred Korematsu, but hell, at least he got a hearing before the Supreme Court.
posted by orthogonality at 10:47 PM on January 20, 2011 [13 favorites]



Torturing people is something the bad guys do. It's the difference between who the good guys and bad guys are, and watching people trying to convince themselves that torturing people can lead to just, good-guy outcomes is just a sad, pathetic, miserable thing to see from people who should be better than that, and can remember when they were.

posted by mhoye at 7:40 PM on January 20

It's not a matter of whether we "like" or "don't like" that KSM was tortured. It's a matter that our nation cannot endure without upholding the rule of law. For our own selfish good -- and our moral health -- we have to obey our own laws, our government and President have to obey our laws, and that means freeing the evil and almost certainly guilty Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
posted by orthogonality at 9:49 PM on January 205


Add in some prosecution for Bush/Cheney et al, and this is pretty much all there is to say.
posted by yesster at 10:55 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


OK, there's a bit more to say.

I'm tired of the apparent preference of modern america for outcome-based evaluation of our legal/judicial/political system. What really matters is the process. The process has to be just, even if particular outcomes are problematic. Because if you focus on the outcome, then the process becomes distorted/corrupted. And then we have no principles.
posted by yesster at 11:02 PM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Mr. Bertillon, please pick up the white courtesy phone. Mr. Bertillon, white courtesy phone.
posted by wierdo at 11:39 PM on January 20, 2011


Jesus, the axe-grinding in this thread.

Release KSM? That's bullshit. Try him, exclude evidence from torture, prosecute torturers. That's the ideal.

But really, insisting that KSM be released in order to have your moral approbation? Fuck it, it's not worth that much. I agree with 90 percent of the condemnation, but the group-think just gets so fucking thick in here that we have grandstanders leaping over each other to prove that they can be the most against torture, even if it requires advocating cutting our noses off to spite our face.

It's the easy, simple, wrong answer. But hey, it won't happen, so why the fuck not pretend to moral purity. The same folks who are arguing that KSM be set free are the folks who aren't going to accept any evidence even if there is a trial, even if he is found guilty.

Not only that, despite the Manichean presentation, it's the type of rhetoric that only gets you ignored by any politician that has any hope of being re-elected. Yeah, let's just release the guy who openly claims to have plotted 9/11 and killed Daniel Pearl. I'm sorry, that'd be an idiotic hill to die on for anyone in the government. Shit like that keeps Kucinich from making a real impact on national politics.

It's like arguing that because the US shouldn't have invaded Iraq (which is true), that Hussein shouldn't have been executed by the Iraqis, because he certainly didn't get a fair trial.
posted by klangklangston at 11:52 PM on January 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


Release KSM? That's bullshit. Try him, exclude evidence from torture, prosecute torturers. That's the ideal.

And what do we do if the weak-ass evidence we've got left results in an acquittal? If you're not willing to even consider the possibility then whatever we're talking about doesn't fit any definition of "fair trial" I'm familiar with.

But really, insisting that KSM be released in order to have your moral approbation? Fuck it, it's not worth that much.

If you can convince me that he can be given a fair trial with legally obtained evidence I'm all for it. I'm skeptical.

The same folks who are arguing that KSM be set free are the folks who aren't going to accept any evidence even if there is a trial, even if he is found guilty.

Tell me more about myself.

Not only that, despite the Manichean presentation, it's the type of rhetoric that only gets you ignored by any politician that has any hope of being re-elected. Yeah, let's just release the guy who openly claims to have plotted 9/11 and killed Daniel Pearl. I'm sorry, that'd be an idiotic hill to die on for anyone in the government. Shit like that keeps Kucinich from making a real impact on national politics.

I'm not so naive that I think KSM's ever getting out of Guantanamo unless it's to whatever hole we've got planned for him next. It's like the gun control debate. I know I'm already licked. I'm just not going to shut the fuck up entirely. I foolishly bought into the canard that due process is something available to absolutely positively everyone even the worst of the worst and it's what makes our country better than the others. It's a lie, but it's my lie and I'm going to shout it from the rooftops.

It's like arguing that because the US shouldn't have invaded Iraq (which is true), that Hussein shouldn't have been executed by the Iraqis, because he certainly didn't get a fair trial.

There are to "becauses" here. I don' t think that Hussein shouldn't have been executed because of the foolish invasion of Iraq (aside from my general opposition to the death penalty). I do think he shouldn't have been executed without a fair trial. I guess I'm just dogmatic that way. It's a good thing there are pragmatic guys like you out there to keep me in line.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:03 AM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I forget where, but I do remember reading that the 183 number means something a little different than I thought it does. It's not 183 sessions, but 183 times that water hit his face.
posted by floam at 1:11 AM on January 21, 2011


My impression upon reading the transcript was that he was fully in command of his faculties and that he wasn't regurgitating some "confession: that had been extracted by torture

Hoopo responded: It's certainly not inconceivable that he did it, but what I saw there was that he was reading a numbered list of his crimes. I'm not sure how you reached that conclusion.

KSM's final statement to the tribunal (pages 17 -19) begins with a statement made by his representative on his instructions. That's the list you're talking about. During the recital KSM interjects twice, but only to clarify details. Significantly, he amended the statement to say that he only shared responsibility for the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul 2. So if the transcript is genuine he was able to deny things that he had apparently admitted to. But immediately after this recital on page 20 he starts clarifying his statement by distinguishing between al Qaida (sic) operations and ones he had done earlier, before he joined al Qaida. And one of those was the murder of Daniel Pearl. And he explicitly says that he is "responsible, responsible". And then he goes off on a lengthy justification for his acts that seems very coherent to me. I don't accept his premises, of course, but it's exactly the sort of self-justification that you would expect to be made by someone who had committed war crimes for theological reasons.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:23 AM on January 21, 2011


I did mean that Dick Cheney's policies brought about our inability to prosecute KSM, nothing more, nothing less. Although I agree with others above who have pointed out the other more geopolitical problems associated with torture (loss of moral standing, they hate us more, etc)
posted by angrycat at 3:49 AM on January 21, 2011


I've been an inveterate liberal as long as I can remember. My sole memory of second grade is a mock election between Nixon and McGovern, and I was one of the two students to vote for McGovern. Why was I a liberal at seven? I have no idea. It certainly didn't come from my upbringing. However, very rarely, I get a brief glimpse of "understanding" the other side's perspective, and some of the comments from this thread has been of those moments. So, thanks, I guess, for the weird Tea Party/Fox News/Rush Limbaugh empathy tutorial.

And boy I wish I could favorite klang's post more than once.
posted by rain at 4:02 AM on January 21, 2011


"you can't kill him because it would violate due process"

After waterboarding someone 183 times I doubt "due process" is high on the priority list. KSM could easily "die of natural causes" or "commit suicide" or frankly just disappear.
posted by MikeMc at 5:12 AM on January 21, 2011


I forget where, but I do remember reading that the 183 number means something a little different than I thought it does. It's not 183 sessions, but 183 times that water hit his face.

Roman Soldier: Quit complaining. We only nailed each of his limbs to a cross once.

It's worth being precise about facts, certainly, but after the first time your waterboard somebody, the exact number ceases to really be relevant.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 5:41 AM on January 21, 2011


No wonder the US Government is held in such contempt around the world. Everyone who knows what should have been done is on MetaFilter posting in this thread!
posted by dougrayrankin at 5:53 AM on January 21, 2011


Of course torture "works".

I beg to differ. The problem is it doesn't make what the person says any more truthful, because the object of the torturer is to get the tortured person to say what the torturer thinks is true, not the actual truth. So, soon enough, the tortured subject provides the torturer with what the torturer believes is true, just to stop the torture.

It is the dumbest way possible to interrogate a person. The best way is to fake befriend them so they really get to get it off their chest.

They say the BTK killer wouldn't stop confessing and was angry and upset when told that they had all the information they wanted and that they hated him and didn't want to hear anymore.

That's how you do it. No physical pain and you rely on everyone's social need to be understood.

I suspect that when they got KSM, they already had enough to convict, making all of this totally unneccessary. Dumbass Bush would have gotten a shit load of credit, too.

Having said that, if the non-torture evidence shows KSM was the guy who operationally put together 9/11, hell yes he should be put on trial and imprisoned for the rest of his life. If being waterboarded 183 times is wrong, so is killing 2,900 people in a single terrorist attack. This man is no hero and setting him up as a greater victim than those he allegedly killed is a seriously distorted view of ethical reality.

Also, for those saying revenge is not a part of justice, there are lots of decisions out there explicitly refrencing the retributive nature of justice. It is a pillar of our theory of sentencing. But the retribution is in the name of the community, not in the name of the individuals victimized.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:21 AM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Put another way--every time that one argues that KSM is a victim, the torturers and terrorists win. The torturers win because there is no way that being put in fear of your life from drowning 183 times is worse than the experience of the 2900 people who actually died and the grief their loved ones suffered. In the mind of John Q. Public, that distortion seems totally wrong and they will side with the torturers rather than agree that release is the right thing to do.

The terrorists win because they are able to become the victim once again.

Whatever bad policies the US had during the years leading up to 2001, those policies in no way justify what KSM is alleged to have done. It is not a morally right response.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:29 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth, you of all people should know that process and adherence to the law is what protects the weak from the powerful.

We fucked up with Mohammed. We fucked up big. And unless we have other evidence that we can lawfully present in court, the man should walk, no matter how evil he is.

The process matters. It's more important than any individual outcome. Rights and process matter most when the government hates you and wants you dead. If you only have rights when you're popular, you don't have them at all.

The lack of due process for Mohammed is a much more dangerous attack than a few plane bombings could ever be.
posted by Malor at 6:56 AM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


And unless we have other evidence that we can lawfully present in court, the man should walk, no matter how evil he is.


I don't think anyone is arguing that we should use the evidence from the waterboarding sessions. I think it's commonly held that there's enough evidence obtained from other sources to get a conviction.
posted by electroboy at 7:03 AM on January 21, 2011


Such utter bullshit. Again, fitting the intelligence around the policy.

I agree that Cheney and his clan couldn't have divided American opinion and destroyed the sympathy the world felt towards the US much more efficiently.

-global network of torture camps...check
-outsourcing security and interrogations to private companies...check,...
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:10 AM on January 21, 2011


I think it's commonly held that there's enough evidence obtained from other sources to get a conviction.

Then they should try him in court, and sentence him appropriately. If they don't have adequate evidence, he should walk, no matter what our opinion is about the man.

My belief is that they don't have an adequate case without the torture evidence, and that's why they're holding him without a trial.

Blowing up buildings is just killing people and destroying stuff. Failure to respect due process is destroying the fabric of society itself. It's an attack on the weak, helpless, and marginalized everywhere, not just criminals.
posted by Malor at 7:36 AM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


And unless we have other evidence that we can lawfully present in court, the man should walk, no matter how evil he is.

I think we probably do, as I wrote above.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:47 AM on January 21, 2011


My belief is that they don't have an adequate case without the torture evidence, and that's why they're holding him without a trial.

They want to try him in the US, but the Republicans are screaming bloody murder and trying to prevent it. This has been in the news since November, 2009. The GOP threatened to put legislation out there prohibiting trials of his sort within the US. The idea being that even dems will vote for it and put it on Obama's desk.
They announced the trial in November 2009, dude.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:50 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sure the "Free KSM" T-shirts are just around the corner.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:51 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I tend to agree with Malor that the reason certain people are crying bloody murder about trying KSM in a normal way is that they are really worried that there isn't enough evidence to prove the case. Like bullies, they are terrified of even a small possibility that they might enter a fair fight and lose, so they would rather tear down the system than risk it working in a way that embarrasses them.
posted by localroger at 8:09 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I tend to agree with Malor that the reason certain people are crying bloody murder about trying KSM in a normal way is that they are really worried that there isn't enough evidence to prove the case. Like bullies, they are terrified of even a small possibility that they might enter a fair fight and lose, so they would rather tear down the system than risk it working in a way that embarrasses them.

Which "certain people" are you talking about?
posted by Ironmouth at 8:13 AM on January 21, 2011


Put another way--every time that one argues that KSM is a victim, the torturers and terrorists win. The torturers win because there is no way that being put in fear of your life from drowning 183 times

KSM was tortured for six months. The 183 water boarding incidents occurred in a single month. His actions do not excuse similar barbarism from the US government. We do not tolerate extrajudicial violence for rapists or even pedophiles, because we are a nation of Laws and not one of blood feuds and lynch mobs.

The terrorists win because they are able to become the victim once again.

The terrorists won because they proved there is no difference in principles between Al Qaeda and the Pentagon. We'll torture as diligently as any al Qaeda operative, we'll accept the deaths of innocent civilians as collateral damage in our larger military objectives. The ends always justify the means for both purveyors of shocking violence. We just happen to be on one side, and KSM on the other.
posted by notion at 8:22 AM on January 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


The terrorists won because they proved there is no difference in principles between Al Qaeda and the Pentagon. We'll torture as diligently as any al Qaeda operative, we'll accept the deaths of innocent civilians as collateral damage in our larger military objectives. The ends always justify the means for both purveyors of shocking violence. We just happen to be on one side, and KSM on the other.


No. The torture was wrong. But al Qaeda does not torture. al Qaeda kills. The torture was wrong and unlawful, but it was not as wrong as killing 2,900 innocent people. How can being waterboarded 183 times be worse than the deaths of 2,900 people and the disruption in the lives of thousands of their loved ones and friends? No. There is simply no equivalence. One is far, far worse than the other.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:36 AM on January 21, 2011


Joe,

the particular details you're talking about say nothing of whether or not he was tortured into saying these things. He was waterboarded 183 times, that's a lot of practice to get the narrative right. These particular details would have been important to get across because a) it is widely known that KSM was not the man that pulled the trigger in the assassination attempt on the pope and b) a Pakistani Nationalist group had taken responsibility for the murder of Daniel Pearl, not AQ. BTW I think you're reading it wrong; Pearl was killed in 2002 and KSM was saying it was outside his work with al Qaeda, not before. He would not have been able to plan 9/11 if it was before he joined.

it's exactly the sort of self-justification that you would expect to be made by someone who had committed war crimes for theological reasons.

Or supported/agreed with these crimes for theological reasons and has nothing but contempt for the court/tribunal he's being tried by. In any event, that's nothing but pop psychology and we'll likely never know. The point is that because the information was obtained through torture it necessarily casts doubt on the veracity of his confession and now it's pretty much worthless and we're apparently relying on the FBI's secret magic voodoo powers to pin him to something on the list. Which really sucks because by all accounts the man is a monster and is certainly responsible for some pretty horrible stuff.
posted by Hoopo at 9:06 AM on January 21, 2011


"...it was not as wrong as killing 2,900 innocent people. How can being waterboarded 183 times be worse than the deaths of 2,900 people..."

Algebra can't be used to solve questions of morality. If it could, you might want to factor the deaths of 100,000+ innocent Iraqis into your equation.

Torturing people robs you of any claim to moral authority.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:08 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Me: certain people are crying bloody murder about trying KSM in a normal way

Ironmouth: Which "certain people" are you talking about?

All of them.
posted by localroger at 9:10 AM on January 21, 2011


Ironmouth You seemed much more dedicated to the notion of tainted evidence necessarily resulting in freedom for the accused when you defended the acquittal of the Blackwater mercenaries on their killing spree in Iraq.

Am I missing something, or has your position changed, or have you simply decided that since KSM may have been involved in 9/11 that changes things, or what?

Because it seems to me that if we applied the same standards we did to the Blackwater scum to KSM he'd be out on the street free and clear the same as they are.
posted by sotonohito at 9:11 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am wondering how could somebody not go through different psychological states as a result of torture. How does one not lose his mind after being water boarded that many times? It seems with torture one big conflict of interest is that you want to punish the person who committed the crime -- not the one who is bonkers because of torture. Moreover, what does it do to the accused's efficacy in communicating with his defense attorneys?
posted by angrycat at 9:17 AM on January 21, 2011


I suspect that when they got KSM, they already had enough to convict, making all of this totally unneccessary. Dumbass Bush would have gotten a shit load of credit, too.

Having said that, if the non-torture evidence shows KSM was the guy who operationally put together 9/11, hell yes he should be put on trial and imprisoned for the rest of his life.


As long as we're talking about things we "suspect" are "probably" the case, how about we talk about what we "hope" isn't the case but very well might be. What do we do if we can't convict him? What do we do if we can't charge him? None of us has any idea what kind of evidence they've got against the guy, or how they got it. And anything they got against him after he was tortured is suspect.

The hilarious thing is that the response I usually get to these questions is "Oh, well, that's never going to come up because there isn't a chance in hell that hill be acquitted anyway." So, our concerns about due process are assuaged by telling us that we won't find ourselves in an uncomfortable moral position because the accused's going to be in a kangaroo court anyway. And, be honest, does anybody here really believe he won't be in a kangaroo court? Insofar as you believe he'll ever be in a court at all?

And what the hell is with these insulting fucking insinuations that people who suggest that we might have to let this worthless piece of shit go want him to go free. What in the living fuck is that all about? No, actually, we want our government to obey it's own laws, including the ones that let murderous fucks get away when kick the shit out of them instead of actually investigating their crimes. Not because we feel bad about what happened and so we have to give shit-for-brains a consolation prize, but because we don't have enough evidence to use in a trial against shit-for-brains and still hold our heads high as a nation. Because there isn't a second Bill of Rights for assholes who manage to kill a specified number of people.

You say we probably have enough evidence to lock up KSM without using anything obtained by torture. Whose word am I supposed to take for that? Yours? George Bush's? Eric Holder's? You have no earthly idea what evidence we do or don't have against him and the other two guys aren't exactly models of credibility on this subject. And so I'm left with the very real possibility that we don't actually have this vaunted evidence. And then I shout my uncomfortable truth:

If we can't get a fair conviction against this guy, we have to let him go.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 9:33 AM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would hope so, but it doesn't have any bearing anyway. I believe that anyone subjected to that kind of monstrous breach of justice should be released, regardless of guilt, so that torture cannot ever be a tool of justice.

You make sure torture cannot ever be a tool of justice by doing two things: prosecuting the torturer and not using the evidence gathered from torture against the accused. You serve exactly nothing by giving the likely mastermind of 9/11 a Get out of Jail Free card.
posted by spaltavian at 9:38 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Am I missing something, or has your position changed, or have you simply decided that since KSM may have been involved in 9/11 that changes things, or what?

Evidence procured by torture should not be admitted. I haven't said anything else throughout the thread, dude. I think that the Blackwater guards should be prosecuted, if sufficient evidence other than their statements made after an offer of immunity can be obtained.

It is my understanding, based on the Obama Administration's announcement that they were going to try KSM, that sufficient evidence not obtained by torture is out there.

What I do not agree with is his release because Bush tortured him. This was advocated in this thread. I disagree with that.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:38 AM on January 21, 2011


No. The torture was wrong. But al Qaeda does not torture. al Qaeda kills. The torture was wrong and unlawful, but it was not as wrong as killing 2,900 innocent people. How can being waterboarded 183 times be worse than the deaths of 2,900 people and the disruption in the lives of thousands of their loved ones and friends? No. There is simply no equivalence. One is far, far worse than the other.

If we're playing a numbers game, Ironmouth...

9/11 civilian deaths - 2,922
OEF-A civilian deaths resulting from US-led military actions (estimate): 8,991 to 28,583
Total civilian deaths resulting from OEF-A (estimate): 14,643 to 34,240

Worth it?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:03 AM on January 21, 2011


Well, obiwanwasabi, you do open an interesting question - "who started it"? Who threw the first punch, so to speak? Was it Muslim extremists, or was it the US? Was the first violence committed against American or the other way around?

Looking at the history books, it seems pretty clear that American money, American weapons and sometimes American soldiers have been killing people in the Middle East for at least 70 years.

And the death toll has been singularly lopsided - somewhat over three thousand Americans against easily a million Muslims and other people of color.

So you probably shouldn't open that can of worms - any objective moral evaluation of the long-term situation will come off as putting the US in the role of the long-term bully and aggressor.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:22 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


> The torture was wrong and unlawful, but it was not as wrong as killing 2,900 innocent people.

America killed more innocent people than that in the first month of either the Iraq war or the Afghanistan war.

America has killed millions of innocents over the decades I've been alive. The fact that someone finally struck back at America does not give the country carte blanche to commit further atrocities for the rest of time.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:26 AM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


America has killed millions of innocents over the decades I've been alive.

Cite?
posted by electroboy at 10:30 AM on January 21, 2011


electroboy, well over a million civilians died in the Vietnam war alone. Use the damn Google.
posted by localroger at 10:35 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


And let me also add that America's endless posturing as the victim in international affairs while simultaneously swaggering as the baddest mofo on the planet is embarrassing to thinking people.

America does things as bad as 9/11 to other countries all the time and yet it barely registers on the consciousness - or conscience - of its citizens. America is not the victim in international affairs, it is the aggressor - it possesses most of the world's weapons, and when anyone is getting beaten up, it is more often America or at least weapons paid for by America that are doing that beating.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:36 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"America killed more innocent people than that in the first month of either the Iraq war or the Afghanistan war."

So… we should release KSM? I'm really not following your argument, except that you think America is bad bad bad.
posted by klangklangston at 10:36 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


> America has killed millions of innocents over the decades I've been alive.

Hard to believe you're serious, but let's go.

We have two million dead overall in Vietnam - I'd accumulate at least a third of those to the tally of the US. Another 100,000 total dead in Laos, Cambodia. The number of people who have died then and since due to exposure to Agent Orange and other toxins is extremely hard to determine, somewhere between a quarter and a half million others. We're over a million now...

We have an undisclosed number dead in Iraq, both the direct casualties and those killed due to disease, civil disorder and such. Again, very hard to estimate but it's really hard to come out as less than 300,000 casualties and a similar number amount of collateral damage.

Now let's move to South and Central America - decades of wars and near-wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and smaller actions elsewhere.

Again, it's hard to say exactly how many of the many hundreds of thousands of innocents killed by US-backed death squads or Contras can be directly laid at the door of the US...

...and I haven't even started on Afghanistan or a host of tiny places where the US has killed a thousand people here, knocked down a commercial jet liner with 300 people there... and surely some percentage of the victims of the Intifada, most of whom are killed with US-bought weapons, should also be accounted for...

Did I mention the embargo on medical supplies for Iraq? - I think the estimates of 1.5 million dead are exaggerated but...

Shall I continue?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:55 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


So… we should release KSM? I'm really not following your argument, except that you think America is bad bad bad.

His argument is that morality is not a zero sum tally of the dead, at least in the opinion of some people. If I believe it is wrong to deny someone the right to a fair trial if they are accused of a crime as a matter of principle, it does not matter if they kill one person or one million people, even if they get away with it. That's what "principles" and "rights" mean, and that is supposedly what our soldiers fight for when they sign up to lay their lives down for the United States. Modern Americans probably view their material comfort as the core of our values, but their attachment to security over civil rights is shortsighted at best, and

You can do the pathetic dancing around definitions, asking plaintively if "outrages of human dignity" does or does not include forcing someone to stay naked, putting a leash around their neck, throwing them against the wall with it, forcing them to stay in stress positions for eight hours a day, or waterboarding them a few hundred times, or hanging them by their hands and beating them with electric cables, or telling them the woman they hear screaming is their wife being raped. If you're a real piece of work you can even say the torture is justified because it's for the purpose of revenge for the crime.

When the difference between you and your enemy is the number of people you're willing to kill and the definitions of torture that you're willing to bend without regard to human dignity, there's not much of a difference left to defend.
posted by notion at 11:03 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"So… we should release KSM? I'm really not following your argument, except that you think America is bad bad bad."

...wow, that's really trite.

It's funny how torture used to be seen the tool of only the most horrible and criminal regimesbut TV cop dramas now sell it as the best way to get crucial information out of child molesters. It's a last resort, when the lives of innocents are at stake, when a kid is chained up, partially clothed in a rat-infested bunker somewhere. Torture is just a few well placed smacks. Torture is DAMN HEROIC!
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:04 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


We have two million dead overall in Vietnam

Two million dead according to the government of Vietnam. Other estimates have significantly fewer civilian casualties. This estimate puts it at around 850,000, which accounts for casualties caused by both sides. Also given that you probably weren't alive for the entire war, if any of it, most of those deaths would be excluded from your estimate.

We have an undisclosed number dead in Iraq, both the direct casualties and those killed due to disease, civil disorder and such.

Probably more like 100,000.

Now let's move to South and Central America - decades of wars and near-wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and smaller actions elsewhere.

Put a number on it. Don't handwave and just say lots.

Did I mention the embargo on medical supplies for Iraq? - I think the estimates of 1.5 million dead are exaggerated but...

You do know that the 1.5 million figure is directly from Sadaam Hussein's government, right? And that child mortality declined in areas under areas of UN administration.

Shall I continue?

Please do.
posted by electroboy at 11:16 AM on January 21, 2011


"You can do the pathetic dancing around definitions, asking plaintively if "outrages of human dignity" does or does not include forcing someone to stay naked, putting a leash around their neck, throwing them against the wall with it, forcing them to stay in stress positions for eight hours a day, or waterboarding them a few hundred times, or hanging them by their hands and beating them with electric cables, or telling them the woman they hear screaming is their wife being raped. If you're a real piece of work you can even say the torture is justified because it's for the purpose of revenge for the crime."

See, but when you say things like this, the only proper reply is to point out that I said none of those things, and that implying that I did — by quoting me and using the second person — you show that you have no real argument aside from impugning me. It's ad hominem reasoning, isn't convincing, and shows that you have more interest in grandstanding than making any sort of persuasive case.

It's emotional bullshit, frankly, and you should be ashamed of yourself. What, torture's only OK when it's a rhetorical device to impugn your opponents?

" If I believe it is wrong to deny someone the right to a fair trial if they are accused of a crime as a matter of principle, it does not matter if they kill one person or one million people, even if they get away with it."

If you don't believe that there is always a tension between assuring due process and assuring justice, if you believe that one principle always trumps all others, you're a fool.

The law, hence due process, is always artificial, always the map to the territory of justice. It is my contention, and if you want to debate it, I'd appreciate it if you'd state your contradiction clearly, that justice would not be served by letting KSM go free given what we know of his participation in the 9/11 attacks. Due process serves justice by ensuring that we have the actual criminals; given KSM's statements and what we know of corroborative evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that he is substantively responsible. Ergo, it is just to punish him. Any bullshit about the number of civilians killed in Vietnam is entirely irrelevant.

Likewise, given that it seems reasonable to conclude that he is responsible substantively for the death of Daniel Pearl, it's reasonable to charge him with that and try him.

Other commenters have mentioned that the US has been attempting to try KSM for several years now, but that Congress has blocked attempts to serve civilian justice (and for all the folks complaining about the US losing moral authority, it's not like trying KSM in the jurisdiction where he committed the crimes is more likely to respect his rights).

Finally, for all the blovation about due process, folks proposing KSM's release are ignoring that our rules of due process are already clear on the issue: the evidence collected under torture is inadmissible. The extension of that to all evidence collected after the torture is over-reaching and inane axe-grinding.

You want to prosecute Bush administration officials for their role in torture? Fine. Go to it. Though the rules of due process that you so venerate now do largely protect both military and administration figures.

But hey, better to have those torturers go free than to violate their due process rights, amirite?
posted by klangklangston at 11:32 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shall I continue?

Please do.


So the question is whether the United States has killed more than 1 million or fewer than 1 million civilians over the past 50 years?

This is pretty absurd.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:36 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


So the question is whether the United States has killed more than 1 million or fewer than 1 million civilians over the past 50 years?

It's more about how most subjective claims of how evil the US is are unexamined bullshit.
posted by electroboy at 11:38 AM on January 21, 2011


If we're playing a numbers game, Ironmouth...

9/11 civilian deaths - 2,922
OEF-A civilian deaths resulting from US-led military actions (estimate): 8,991 to 28,583
Total civilian deaths resulting from OEF-A (estimate): 14,643 to 34,240

Worth it?


Why are you equating the deaths there with KSM? How is his case somehow linked there? KSM is alleged to have killed 2,922 directly. He has nothing to do with Iraq. Nothing. I think Iraq was wrong. But the fucking fact we invaded there has absolutely nothing to do with KSM. KSM did not kill 2,922 because we invaded Iraq. KSM killed 2,922 for political reasons. He did it before we invade Iraq or Afghanistan.

More importantly, it is as if you are saying it was OK that KSM killed 2,922 because the US killed other people in wars. Really? So people who had nothing to do with that killing are somehow legally to be killed in a terrorist attack? An eye for an eye indeed. What kind of justice is that?

Your hero committed terrible crimes. Terrible crimes. Regardless of others paying for other things, he should stand trial. Although there will actually never be a trial. Eventually he will be sent to NYC for trial. Where he will promptly plead guilty. He's already asked to plead guilty multiple times so that he may be executed and become a martyr.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:41 AM on January 21, 2011


"The terrorists won because they proved there is no difference in principles between Al Qaeda and the Pentagon. We'll torture as diligently as any al Qaeda operative, we'll accept the deaths of innocent civilians as collateral damage in our larger military objectives."

"America does things as bad as 9/11 to other countries all the time and yet it barely registers on the consciousness - or conscience - of its citizens. America is not the victim in international affairs, it is the aggressor - it possesses most of the world's weapons, and when anyone is getting beaten up, it is more often America or at least weapons paid for by America that are doing that beating."


Ugh, such BS.

First, I think equating Al Qaeda and the US Military is disingenuous and unfair. Even the military understands the civilian deaths are bad for the military and its objectives.

And the US "commits 9/11s all the time"...

People on Metafilter love frothing at the mouth about how evil the US is, but I would contend that the lives of most world citizens have actually improved during the years of US dominance.

I guess its fun to crow about how the evil/fascist/police state is, but this point of view seems to lack historical perspective.
posted by rosswald at 11:44 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


But hey, better to have those torturers go free than to violate their due process rights, amirite?

Yeah, actually. If you can't give a person a fair trial then they get to go free. I don't care whether that person's name is Rumsfeld or Mohammed.

And as far as evidence gathered after torture is concerned, I'm not saying that it's inadmissible as a matter of course. I'm saying that it's suspect. If you torture somebody, and later on somebody brings you a damning piece of evidence against that person I am going to be very suspicious about the provenance of that evidence. The burden is now you you to prove to me that you got it legitimately. This is the problem with torture. Once you do it you can't know how things would have otherwise shaken out.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:56 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your hero committed terrible crimes. Terrible crimes.

...this is getting pointless.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:06 PM on January 21, 2011


It is my contention, and if you want to debate it, I'd appreciate it if you'd state your contradiction clearly, that justice would not be served by letting KSM go free given what we know of his participation in the 9/11 attacks.

I'm not talking about the tribal Old Testament definition of justice. That only exists in movies and imaginations. I'm talking about the legal process in which a person is 1) accused of a crime 2) and then tried for it and 3) found guilty or not guilty based on the evidence available to everyone.

If you have to let a criminal go because you don't have the evidence, that's a far better outcome than allowing the government to get in the habit of convicting and jailing or executing people without due process. That's the whole point of our legal system, to prevent the government from wielding more power than they ought. Now that our government is signing secret orders to have people kidnapped and killed in secret locations, I was hoping everyone would realize that protecting due process is more important than pretending that the torture and murder of persons suspected of terrorism is effective at preventing more terrorism.

If the government has destroyed its chance of providing admissible evidence in court, hopefully they will not ignore decades of international law and official Pentagon policy and treat detainees according to the law, instead of according to their emotion, the next time around.
posted by notion at 1:00 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


So electroboy - what's your total then?

I find your numbers breathtakingly low - to claim, for example, that Iraq has suffered only 100,000 in excess mortality since the start of the Iraq war when there have been more than that many excess deaths from disease alone - but let's take your numbers.

You're still talking a million innocent people murdered by America's military. And no matter how I slice it, I can't come up with more than 5000 Americans murdered by terrorism.

So America has at least a 200:1 kill ratio of innocents. Heck, I'll halve it all again if you it will make you concede the numbers.

So no matter how you slice it, for each innocent American who's killed by terrorists, there are one hundred innocent foreigners killed by Americans.

You are not the victims and you come off as cowards by claiming to be so.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:25 PM on January 21, 2011


Why are you equating the deaths there with KSM? How is his case somehow linked there? KSM is alleged to have killed 2,922 directly. He has nothing to do with Iraq. Nothing. I think Iraq was wrong. But the fucking fact we invaded there has absolutely nothing to do with KSM. KSM did not kill 2,922 because we invaded Iraq.

Uh... The "A" in OEF-A stands for Afghanistan. Those numbers are from Afghanistan alone. The total death toll including Iraq is much, much higher.

KSM killed 2,922 for political reasons. He did it before we invade Iraq or Afghanistan.

Correct. Of course, we invaded Afghanistan for political reasons, too. Namely, as retaliation for 9/11. Hence the number crunching above. Those numbers are an absolutely direct comparison.

More importantly, it is as if you are saying it was OK that KSM killed 2,922 because the US killed other people in wars.

I'm not saying that at all. It appears, though, that you are saying that it's okay to kill ten innocent Afghan civilians for every one innocent American civilian killed by one Pakistani. (Presumably in conjunction with the 19 Saudi hijackers, plus Bin Laden--is he still a thing?--but since you insist KSM did 9/11 alone...)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:28 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


People on Metafilter love frothing at the mouth about how evil the US is, but I would contend that the lives of most world citizens have actually improved during the years of US dominance.

You mistakenly believe that it had something to do with the United States in the post war world. I'd be interested to know which world citizens you think benefited from American Empire.
posted by notion at 1:35 PM on January 21, 2011


Whether one outcome or another is "better" is in fact irrelevant. The issue is whether you believe in the rule of law. America's Founders intended that the law would shield individuals from the tyranny of petty rulers. It was all designed so that if one branch of government should get sloppy, the others could step in and straighten it out. At the end of the day, the men would all make sure each other followed the law, the law would be a public thing known to all, and its constancy would ensure fair treatment.

The law has limitations; even the Founders knew that. The only "better" here is that they thought the law, with all its limitations, was a better standard than the whim of a human who might turn out to be petty or senile or easily enraged. The law, being nothing but words, would always be the law.

In order for the law to work, though, it must be applied uniformly. Otherwise, it isn't the law and people understand that the guy who decides when to apply or not apply the law is actually the ruler who might turn out to be petty or senile or whatever. So the question is, do you believe in the rule of law? Because if your answer is "yes, for the most part, except for this one person," that answer is "no."

Now the law has particular ways by which it (or its actors) may come to know things. Evidence is gathered in certain ways, presented in certain ways, and evaluated in certain ways, and the law proscribes acting on information that isn't processed according to those terms. It doesn't matter how obvious that alternate information is to ordinary people, because as it says in great big stone letters above the door of the 5th circuit Court of Appeals here in NOLA, THIS IS A GOVERNMENT OF LAWS NOT OF MEN. The occasional time the law does something that does not seem to serve common sense is the price we pay for casting off the possibility of our own Mad King George.

In KSM's case the law's actors fucked up horribly. They are continuing to fuck up. According to the law, we do not know in any sense whatsoever that KSM is a bad, evil person; we do not even know if he is guilty of jaywalking or spitting on the sidewalk. We do not know any of those things because no evidence has been presented, and at this point it's likely that whatever evidence does exist can't be presented because of the way it was gathered. It doesn't matter what those ways are or how bad or almost-good they were; if they violated the law, the evidence doesn't exist.

On the other hand, we have admissible evidence -- piles of it -- in the form of very public confessions and other documentation that a whole shitload of actual, likely provable crimes have been committed against KSM by the people who claim to be "protecting" us from him. By shitting on the system, those people -- in both the previous and ongoing in this administration -- are making it impossible for the system to really work. Instead, we have inserted a bunch of King Georges into the loop who can arbitrarily override the law. Every day we keep KSM in custody because of something we "know" but cannot legally prove, we are a government of men not of laws.

The law says that if you have captured a person you suspect, you spend a reasonable time gathering evidence in certain ways, and you have a trial, and if you can't prevail at trial you let him go. Period. If you believe in one exception to that you do not believe in the rule of law, you do not believe in the American system, you are shitting on the Constitution and every principle behind it. If you believe in anything america stands for, you must believe that everybody at Gitmo should be tried in a timely manner, under the same rules of conduct and evidence that prevail for other people, and that should such a trial result in acquittal those people will be released and treated like anybody else.

If you do not believe that, I hope you're not chanting "USA USA USA" because you don't believe in anything the USA ever stood for.
posted by localroger at 1:40 PM on January 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


You mistakenly believe that it had something to do with the United States in the post war world. I'd be interested to know which world citizens you think benefited from American Empire.
posted by notion at 4:35 PM on January 21 [+] [!]

If you really think that the foremost producer (post war) of medicine, agriculture advances, foreign aid, charity, peacekeeping, vaccines had given nothing to the world, then I can't argue with you.

Is the US a monolithic entity for good? No! For evil? No!

I honestly believe that a world where each successive superpower has become more liberated, more democratic than the last is a good one. The US isn't the final destination towards a completely moral society, but it is a step in the right direction.
posted by rosswald at 1:49 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Your hero committed terrible crimes.

Jaw-droppingly offensive statement.

I defy you to find even a single person ever approving of KSM or his alleged actions on Metafilter.

YOU on the right are the ones whose heros are killers. You revere the fatherly killer Reagan and the stupid killer Bush and the dark killer Cheney and talk about your Second Amendment rights.

Don't you understand? We abhor KSM (assuming he did in fact commit any the crimes of which he's accused)! We abhor your warmachine much more simply because it kills hundreds of times as many innocent people than all the KSMs in the world put together.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:53 PM on January 21, 2011


"And as far as evidence gathered after torture is concerned, I'm not saying that it's inadmissible as a matter of course."

Yeah, that'd be lupus_yonderboy who was saying that any evidence collected afterwards should be excluded.

"I'm not talking about the tribal Old Testament definition of justice. That only exists in movies and imaginations. I'm talking about the legal process in which a person is 1) accused of a crime 2) and then tried for it and 3) found guilty or not guilty based on the evidence available to everyone."

Who said anything about tribal Old Testament justice? I mean, that's a fairly insulting mischaracterization of what I wrote, to the point where I just don't believe that you understood what I wrote.

What I was pointing out was twofold: the rules of due process are artificial, and that due process serves justice, rather than justice serving due process. To elaborate on that a little, that means that if the outcomes of due process are not in accordance with justice, that means that due process has failed and must be changed. And that means that, most obviously in this case, there's a tension between due process and justice.

And I'll make something else explicit here, because I'm not afraid of making real arguments (unlike a fair number of interlocutors here): I have no philosophical problem with letting KSM go free if we're unable to prove his guilt. But he's been pretty open about his guilt, both in 9/11 and in killing Daniel Pearl. So, for the vast majority of statements here, I find the folks who'd let him free arguing counter-factuals and dancing around having to say that, yes, they do believe that KSM was guilty. Do you believe that? Or would you like to hedge and hem and haw around the issue again, so that you can make a niggling point about due process?

"If the government has destroyed its chance of providing admissible evidence in court, hopefully they will not ignore decades of international law and official Pentagon policy and treat detainees according to the law, instead of according to their emotion, the next time around."

Well, as long as we're dreaming, I'd like a pony. What is more likely is that if the government tries him and loses, the rules of evidence and due process will be changed to provide less protection for the accused.
posted by klangklangston at 1:54 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I honestly believe that a world where each successive superpower has become more liberated, more democratic than the last is a good one.

Century to century, this is true. Over the last several decades, this is not. By any possible measure, the US is less liberated and less democratic than it was in 1975.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:55 PM on January 21, 2011


> Yeah, that'd be lupus_yonderboy who was saying that any evidence collected afterwards should be excluded.

I fail to understand. What possible advantage do you gain from claiming I said something which even a few seconds' examination would show I did not?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:58 PM on January 21, 2011


"By any possible measure the US is less liberated and less democratic than it was in 1975"

Gays and women have made great strides. Religious tolerance has grown. Racially the country has become more diverse.

I would also note that since '75 we have seen the rise of the internet (US Dept. of Defense btw) which has been a great factor in human rights and democratic movements. The US does also support a lot of democratic movements

I honestly believe I am more free than my father before me, and he is more free than his father.

There are more ways for the government to be intrusive, but there are also more avenues for expression.

I am not trying to say that the US is God's gift to free societies, but I think most people here have a pretty jaundiced view. Not trying to derail, so that's it I guess.
posted by rosswald at 2:07 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, Lupus, that was Doublewhiskey that I was talking about, with statements like: "The argument is that any statements he made after being tortured can't be used against him.

Though pretending Ironmouth is some fan of Reagan is just as much of a stretch.
posted by klangklangston at 2:23 PM on January 21, 2011


and at this point it's likely that whatever evidence does exist can't be presented because of the way it was gathered. It doesn't matter what those ways are or how bad or almost-good they were; if they violated the law, the evidence doesn't exist.

I think there must be plenty of admissible evidence, why else would the government attempt to try him in NYC? It was a serious political risk to announce that--and that risk would not have been taken if there were not evidence the government thought could be admitted--evidence not obtained by torture. Remember, we've been pursuing this man for a long time, and he was also been indicted in NY for other charges, relating to the plot to blow up airliners. That indictment is pre-9/11. This isn't some new guy they dug up. They've known about him since the Clinton Administration.

Second, legally, the evidence obtained by torture does exist. It is, however, not admissible in the government's case-in-chief. However, there are plenty of scenarios where it could get in, for example if brought in by the defendant, or in other ways. It is also remotely possible that a judge would rule it admissible anyway, under some doctrine or another. I do not think this would happen, however.

The guy can be tried in court. And he should be. Those calling for his release are wrong, morally and otherwise. The fact that he has been tortured is not grounds for not trying him for 2,900 deaths. It is grounds for not admitting the evidenced obtained by torture, that is all.

Finally, all of this is moot, as he has repeatedly said he will plead guilty and become a martyr. I think the response to that is to not sentence him to death. (I oppose the death penalty, anyway).

And I called him people's hero because they were somehow equating his 180-some waterboarding with the 2900 deaths, or somehow saying that deaths US troops have caused somehow equalize the 2900 deaths (which apparently makes it fair to let him go). I say no. I say try the man with the evidence we do have.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:25 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the reasons why Republicans oppose a civilian trial are twofold: First, they believe it would be a terrorist target, and second, they realize that civilian trials undermine the need for military tribunals. It's not for lack of evidence.
posted by klangklangston at 2:28 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


YOU on the right are the ones whose heros are killers. You revere the fatherly killer Reagan and the stupid killer Bush and the dark killer Cheney and talk about your Second Amendment rights.


I hate all of those men and voted against Bush and Cheney (I was too young in 1986 to vote). I opposed the War in Iraq and volunteered for Obama.

I've never revered any of those people. Ever. Check my comment history. I'm just not so crazy far-left that I think that the Taliban should have been left in peace and that KSM should be released because fucking idiot Bush tortured him. That would be wrong.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:28 PM on January 21, 2011


Yeah, the reasons why Republicans oppose a civilian trial are twofold: First, they believe it would be a terrorist target, and second, they realize that civilian trials undermine the need for military tribunals. It's not for lack of evidence.

Add to this that it would totally undermine the Bush Administration's use of torture, plain and simple. Seriously, what would undermine it more in the eyes of the world but actually trying him based on evidence not obtained by torture and convicting him. It undermines the entire rationale for the policy in the first place. Releasing him just makes torture seem like the right thing to do because it was "the only way to get evidence" against him. Your suggested policy of releasing the alleged murderer of 2,900 people will drive the public straight into the arms of the Cheney's of this world.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:32 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't you understand? We abhor KSM (assuming he did in fact commit any the crimes of which he's accused)! We abhor your warmachine much more simply because it kills hundreds of times as many innocent people than all the KSMs in the world put together.

It isn't "my warmachine." I opposed the Iraq war. Afghanistan state-sponsored the attack in question. That needed to be prevented again and any other state that would have helped al Qaeda should have been deterred. The whole Iraq crap totally distracted everyone from the Taliban-al Qaeda alliance and the real people who caused the attack.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:34 PM on January 21, 2011


The argument is that any statements he made after being tortured can't be used against him.

This is not a legal doctrine I've ever heard of in my years of practice.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:35 PM on January 21, 2011


And, what to do with KSM? I have no idea.

The military/legal establishment has fucked up the case to the point where it's inconceivable that this almost-certain murderer and terrorist could ever be convicted in a fair trial, which is pretty astonishing for someone who has more or less confessed to huge crimes. It's like they've tried to make as much of the evidence legally inadmissible as they possibly could - strangely similar to the Blackwater/Xe case, isn't it?

By my best guess he's a really bad man, but if we don't proceed by the rule of law, then we are feckless and have no moral center. It's not just "slippery slope" but we're really at the point today where the government says, "We can hold you indefinitely, or we can assassinate you anywhere in the world, if we simply call you a terrorist. No due process of law is required, and you cannot defend yourself legally against this outcome, even if you are an American citizen."

All outcomes are bad. If you rate the outcome on a scale from 0 to 100, the best outcome I can see is where KSM's chief interrogator walks in and puts a bullet in KSM's brain and then into his own - and that still clocks in at a wintry -10 out of 100.

Let me repeat something that every American should understand. I have lived in New York City for almost 30 years - I was here for 9/11. 9/11 was extremely bad Terrorism is not a major problem facing the United States today nor at any time in the past. You're far far more likely to die in the bathtub. You're hundreds of thousands of times more likely to die of circulatory disease. You're much more likely to be killed in a foreign war "fighting terrorism" than you are to be killed by an actual terrorist!

The economic effects of the destruction of the World Trade Center were significant - but again, over the history of the US it falls in a distinctly second tier compared to such things as Katrina or historically say the Boll Weevil.

The US does things like 9/11 to other countries all the time - Americans simply ignore it. America can do things like shoot down a commercial jet with hundreds of people, fully radio responsive and flying right in the middle of passenger lanes, and then never admit responsibility (even when forced to pay financial repairs).


Consider Bhopal. In terms of loss of life and injury, Bhopal dwarfs 9/11 - though the fatalities are only a few more than the WTC, there were a hundred thousand horrific injuries and tens of thousands of excess mortalities over the successive decades in the survivors.

The behavior of the American managers of these plants, who amongst numerous other acts of criminal greed and cowardice prevented the alarms from being sounded that would have saved tens of thousands from harm exemplifies the concept of depraved indifference. Yet the US government prevented those psychopaths from receiving the slightest punishment except a token financial payment made decades later, shielding them from any legal repercussions of their evil acts.


I mentioned the usage of Agent Orange and other defoliants in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The carnage from this dwarfs either 9/11 or Bhopal.


So terrorism is NOT A PROBLEM for the US. ONE time it was hit. And it wouldn't have been if anyone at all was on the ball - reading the story of the World Trade Center is to read about unpunished failure over and over again, people simply not doing their jobs at all levels. All the information was there, the correct warnings were delivered to the highest levels repeatedly, our very highly-paid elected officials did nothing.

But the fact is that America has shown themselves to anyone who is watching as a nation of cowards - a nation who for years has lorded themselves over all other nations as morally superior for years while committing terrible attacks all over the world, and then, when finally through their own ineptitude they allow a bunch of reasonably competent terrorist to score one hit, immediately throw away forever every single value they used as an excuse for their moral high-ground!

Let me explain it to you very simply. America turned off the Constitution permanently over a single attack no greater in magnitude than hundreds of similar things that the US has done from the Trail of Tears to Fallujah. Literally, the first time someone managed to land a single solid blow back, the US simply gave up on even pretending to be good guys and decided things like torture and concentration camps were perfectly OK.

There was a brief period when the shining dream was true. I remember once going past a demonstration at the Israeli embassy in the early 80s and hearing some woman say to a cop, "Can't you arrest them?" and he said, "Lady, it's a free country!" Really. It sounds like a movie now when I relate it!

But no. Now the US is simply a thug nation - it does what it pleases, might makes right, and the Constitution and the law are just suggestions to it. Luckily, the same insanity seems to have possessed the economic system too, so I don't see it lasting more than a few decades more.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:41 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The military/legal establishment has fucked up the case to the point where it's inconceivable that this almost-certain murderer and terrorist could ever be convicted in a fair trial, which is pretty astonishing for someone who has more or less confessed to huge crimes

You have no support for those statements. Where are the facts of any kind supporting that statement? The Obama Administration has stated repeatedly it has plenty of admissible evidence to try KSM.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:47 PM on January 21, 2011


The other problem, lupus, is that you try really hard to make this about "America" v. KSM, as if somehow KSM could introduce the actions of a private company at Bhopal as evidence exonerating KSM. Or any other war or action or anything. This thread isn't about any of those things and they are not relevant to any prosecution of KSM.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:49 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Afghanistan state-sponsored the attack in question.

Haven't we gone through this before?

There appears to be no evidence that any Afghani - even one person - knew about 9/11 before it happened.

If you read the 9/11 Commission Report, their sole theory is the familiar one: that 9/11 was committed by a Saudi Arabian group called Al Qaeda, financed by Saudi Arabian money, run by the Saudi Osama Bin Laden, training in camps in Afghanistan and to a lesser extent Pakistan. Nineteen men who had been training in Afghanistan committed the crime, including 16 Saudis and zero Afghanis. Bin Laden was staying in Afghanistan as a guest of the Taliban, and certainly they must have known that he was up to no good, but again, the official report and also later media reports do not identify a single Afghani or member of the Taliban who had the faintest idea of the actual plot before it happened or suggest that the Taliban were in any way involved in the planning, logistics, or commission of this great crime.

Certainly, the Taliban made at least two public offers after the fact to give up Bin Laden, offering fairly reasonable and quickly decreasing conditions - but George W. Bush refused to negotiate with them at all...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:53 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


> The Obama Administration has stated repeatedly it has plenty of admissible evidence to try KSM.

Well, it's not just that the Obama Administration has said many things that it knew to be false, but that their belief that evidence is admissible doesn't necessarily make actually admitted to court.

If they have the evidence, let them obey the rule of law and try the man. A lawyer who doesn't belief in the rule of law is nothing but an empty suit.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:03 PM on January 21, 2011


> Afghanistan state-sponsored the attack in question.

Haven't we gone through this before?

There appears to be no evidence that any Afghani - even one person - knew about 9/11 before it happened.

If you read the 9/11 Commission Report, their sole theory is the familiar one: that 9/11 was committed by a Saudi Arabian group called Al Qaeda, financed by Saudi Arabian money, run by the Saudi Osama Bin Laden, training in camps in Afghanistan and to a lesser extent Pakistan. Nineteen men who had been training in Afghanistan committed the crime, including 16 Saudis and zero Afghanis. Bin Laden was staying in Afghanistan as a guest of the Taliban, and certainly they must have known that he was up to no good, but again, the official report and also later media reports do not identify a single Afghani or member of the Taliban who had the faintest idea of the actual plot before it happened or suggest that the Taliban were in any way involved in the planning, logistics, or commission of this great crime.


So, the Taliban can get off because gee we didn't know they were going to do that, but yes we did know they were training terrorists in our country and gee we knew that they had attacked the US before and all that, but we had no idea? Really? They have no responsiblity? That's not state-sponsoring it? That's exactly what state sponsoring is.

And we don't have any direct evidence because we don't have anyone to fucking testify to those meetings.

But there is indirect evidence. On September 9, 2001, an al Qaeda team killed the Taliban's greatest enemy, Ahmad Shah Massoud. Coincidence? I think not. Nor did John O'Neil, the counter-terrorism expert killed at the WTC:

NARRATOR: On the night of September 10th, John O'Neill did what he loved doing, and he did it from his favorite table at Elaine's.

JERRY HAUER, Dir. Emergency Mgmt. NYC '96-'00: It was classic John. To this day, I can remember John sitting in a chair, looking up at me with that classic John O'Neill smile, saying, "It doesn't get better than this."

NARRATOR: The talk, of course, turned to bin Laden.

JERRY HAUER: He had said to me, "We're due. And we're due for something big." That was just -- he said that, "Some things have happened in Afghanistan. I don't like," you know, "the way things are lining up in Afghanistan." And he said, "I just -- I sense a shift, and I think things are going to happen." And I said, "When?" He said, "I don't know, but soon." And that was just his sense of things.


And bin Laden was directly behind the attack on Massoud. The attackers were his men. Why? What was in it for him?
posted by Ironmouth at 3:04 PM on January 21, 2011


Well, it's not just that the Obama Administration has said many things that it knew to be false, but that their belief that evidence is admissible doesn't necessarily make actually admitted to court.

If they have the evidence, let them obey the rule of law and try the man. A lawyer who doesn't belief in the rule of law is nothing but an empty suit.


Why in God's name would the Obama Administration take the political risk of trying him and making that announcement if they didn't have a sincere belief that they had admissible evidence? It would make zero sense.


More importantly, what facts do you have to support your theory that there is no admissible evidence. There's zero evidence for that case. Why not try him? Why don't you want to see him punished? He should face trial. But the Congress is fighting it tooth and fucking nail. They just attached a no-funds to transfer Gitmo prisoners to the must-pass military appropriations bill.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:07 PM on January 21, 2011


> The other problem, lupus, is that you try really hard to make this about "America" v. KSM, as if somehow KSM could introduce the actions of a private company at Bhopal as evidence exonerating KSM. Or any other war or action or anything. This thread isn't about any of those things and they are not relevant to any prosecution of KSM.

Perhaps I wasn't clear.

I was discussing two separate issues. There's a specific issue of what to be done with the alleged terrorist and murdered KSM. There's a more general issue of how American's fake victimhood is used to justify the ongoing crimes that they were already committing before 9/11, but more of them, and Bhopal was just an example of a specific disaster larger than 9/11 that was caused by criminal Americans - I could easily have picked the Trail of Tears or the El Salvador death squads. Even a tiny thing like the bombing of the Shifra pharmaceutical factory that are probably only remembered by a fraction of a percent of Americans still probably ended up killing more people than 9/11 did.

The idea is not that there's some tit-for-tat - it's that 9/11 is small beans in the relative sense, and I say this as a New Yorker who lost people in the WTC. I would personally strangle Bin Laden with my bare hands (if I were completely convinced I was strangling the mastermind of that crime) but it doesn't prevent me from realizing that the US does things of a 9/11 magnitude to other countries all the time.

However, I'll bet that if you asked KSM he'd know all about Bhopal and Shifra, and would cite these as amongst the things that led him to become an enemy of the United States. Think about it....

My point, again, is that America's victim mentality with respect to the rest of the world is very deeply misplaced - it should look at the beam in its own eye before the mote in others.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:17 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


> More importantly, what facts do you have to support your theory that there is no admissible evidence.

Aren't you a lawyer, no?

So let me get this straight.

You're saying the burden of proof is on me to show that the Obama administration does not have this evidence?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:20 PM on January 21, 2011


If the clearly admissible evidence existed, these guys would already have been tried in normal courts and would be in US jails just like the previous WTC truck bombers, who were treated like any other criminal and put out of our misery quite normally.

The tremendous resistance to bringing these people into the normal legal system is the most damning clue that the people who really know don't think they would prevail if they did.

It might be that they are so cowardly they don't want to take the risk of anything less than a slam-dunk, or it might be that they know all the evidence has been hosed by the torture and botched chain of custody and dubious sources that no case would ever hold up in a real court. As long as no trial occurs, we do not know which it is, but I think we can be pretty sure that there is no slam-dunk case to be made; if there were, it would have been made by now.

It appears that what we have is "intelligence" that KSM is the guy, but not what the law would call "evidence." Evidence is collected a certain way for a reason; "intelligence" which is collected without oversight and in secret has been shown to be (often darkly hilariously) in error, which the Founders would have easily predicted and which is why we don't use it (or at least shouldn't be using it) as a basis for punishing people.
posted by localroger at 3:25 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gah. I really have no idea what sort of evidence the Obama administration has that it hasn't chosen to release, by definition. The point is exactly and only that

1. We must abide by the rule of law and the Constitution if our claim to be "free" is to mean anything at all, even if there is risk associated with this decision; and

2. On the world stage, the US is and has been for generations now a bully and not a victim - crying victim after 9/11 to justify breaking rule 1 is cowardly and feckless.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:25 PM on January 21, 2011


"Consider Bhopal. In terms of loss of life and injury, Bhopal dwarfs 9/11 - though the fatalities are only a few more than the WTC, there were a hundred thousand horrific injuries and tens of thousands of excess mortalities over the successive decades in the survivors."

Consider the lobster for all the good it does you here. The Bhopal disaster isn't something that the US did, it's something that an American company did, and that many Americans support both civil and criminal penalties for. I mean, unless you want to traipse down the All Germans Are Nazis garden path.

But really, it's clear that you just have an axe to grind about America in general. You make unsupported claim after unsupported claim, apparently out of some deep antipathy toward the country you chose to live in, and don't let any sense of scale, rationality or even facts slow you down.

I mean, don't let any sort of reality put a bridle on your spittle-flecked ranting:

"But the fact is that America has shown themselves to anyone who is watching as a nation of cowards - a nation who for years has lorded themselves over all other nations as morally superior for years while committing terrible attacks all over the world, and then, when finally through their own ineptitude they allow a bunch of reasonably competent terrorist to score one hit, immediately throw away forever every single value they used as an excuse for their moral high-ground!"

Or "America turned off the Constitution permanently over a single attack." Yeah, that's an entirely reasonable and rational reading of the situation.

How do you even sleep, for fear of Americans hiding under your bed?

And, frankly, though it's a bit of a tu quoque, for all the bullshit attacks you throw out on Americans, I can't feel bad about Ironmouth talking about "your hero" KSM. You get what you give.
posted by klangklangston at 3:30 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Because of course anyone who doesn't think KSM should be immediately released, absolved, hugged, and given a Lifetime Achievement Oscar is automatically "on the right" and worships Reagan and Bush and their "war machine."
posted by eugenen at 3:34 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


> So, the Taliban can get off because gee we didn't know they were going to do that, but yes we did know they were training terrorists in our country and gee we knew that they had attacked the US before and all that, but we had no idea?

The mocking tone also makes it hard to parse your argument.

What, exactly, are you claiming? Are you claiming the Taliban trained Al Queda? Please present evidence if so.

But you aren't. You aren't, actually, claiming anything at all. The fact is that the very best evidence is that Bin Laden went to a remote part of Afghanistan to train his military force and the Taliban simply left him alone without the faintest idea of what he was really doing, in some area that wasn't even really under their control.

This in no way justifies an invasion.

I have to say, Ironmouth, that the level of irrationality you display after that in your post is pretty disturbing. Is it really the case that people like you are making decisions about our country's future? Please consider that 16 of 19 hijackers were Saudi, than Bin Laden was Saudi, Al Qaeda is a Saudi organization funded by Saudi money from the highest levels - and yet to you and your group of madmen, these facts are unimportant, trumped by the B-movie touch of someone who died in the WTC mentioning Afghanistan right before it happened, so we invade Afghanistan, we invade Iraq because, gee, they're also in the same area, and the Saudis continue to be our best friends and allies.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:43 PM on January 21, 2011


klangklangston: Or "America turned off the Constitution permanently over a single attack." Yeah, that's an entirely reasonable and rational reading of the situation.

Well I'm an American and that's pretty much how I read it. What is really worrisome is that the Constitution-disabling PATRIOT act was whipped up in remarkable jig time suggesting that it was waiting in a drawer somewhere waiting for an excuse to let it rip.

engenen: I think you owe Ironmouth an apology, thanks to you he no longer has the most offensive comment in this thread.
posted by localroger at 3:44 PM on January 21, 2011


> The Bhopal disaster isn't something that the US did, it's something that an American company did,

The US government went to extraordinary lengths to protect the perpetrators of this crime from the slightest consequences of their actions, stalled India on repayments for literally decades, finally forced India settled for pennies on the dollar and then some fat stinking Republican senator from the South had the impudence to mock the settlement for showing how cheaply they held live in India.

The United State acts as if its military, its corporations and its government are a single united force. Why should you expect its victims to distinguish which wing of the machine was the one that rolled over them?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:50 PM on January 21, 2011


The United State acts as if its military, its corporations and its government are a single united force

No, it does not. The actions of every single government official are always the same and always as if it is a giant, personalized entity?

this is a massive overstatement.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:10 PM on January 21, 2011


> America turned off the Constitution permanently over a single attack.

This isn't literally true - I'm sure we won't see much attack on the Second Amendment, for example - but it's effectively true in two ways.

First, the Patriot Act suspends half the Bill of Rights. But much more importantly, the government has now declared that certain magical words allow it to suspend any part of the Constitution whenever it likes, so it can now kill you or imprison you without explanation if you're a "terrorist" or "enemy combattant".

Once there's a general-purpose asterisk that trumps all other parts of the Constitution, you can safely say that is in effect turned off.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:25 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


> The actions of every single government official are always the same and always as if it is a giant, personalized entity?

I'm sorry, I don't understand what you are saying.

I should clarify what I said - I wasn't claiming that government, the military and corporations formed a single coordinated force or a centralized one, but that they act extremely strongly in each other's interests. "Unified" is a poor choice of phrase - perhaps "cooperative"?

While it's not quite the case that there's no light between the three branches, certainly there is none between the military and the government, and very little between the government and the corporations.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:28 PM on January 21, 2011


The argument is that any statements he made after being tortured can't be used against him.
This is not a legal doctrine I've ever heard of in my years of practice.
I am not surprised that you are unfamiliar with the importance of substantive due process of law.
So, the Taliban can get off because gee we didn't know they were going to do that, but yes we did know they were training terrorists in our country and gee we knew that they had attacked the US before and all that, but we had no idea? Really? They have no responsiblity? That's not state-sponsoring it? That's exactly what state sponsoring is.
Afghanistan was a scapegoat. If the USG sincerely cared about ending terrorism, it would have sanctioned Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Egypt. But since they are official allies, which also do a bit of our secret torturing for us, they are outside the law. And thanks to WikiLeaks, we know it to be a fact: "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide." -Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Should we start bombing Pakistan now that OBL is thought to reside there? What if he sneaks over into China? Yemen? Qatar? I'm sure dragging the United States into every backwater nation in the Eastern Hemisphere and stirring anti-Americanism after we start dropping bombs again isn't part of Al Qaeda's strategy at all.
posted by notion at 4:34 PM on January 21, 2011


But you aren't. You aren't, actually, claiming anything at all. The fact is that the very best evidence is that Bin Laden went to a remote part of Afghanistan to train his military force and the Taliban simply left him alone without the faintest idea of what he was really doing, in some area that wasn't even really under their control.


The very best evidence shows, eh?

Let us look at the facts, not just made up assertions, OK?

see, for example this New York Times article:
In a reception room at a Taliban ministry of defense building in Kabul, a brightly colored map depicting the American military presence in the Arabian peninsula was painted on a wall. An identical map appears in a book written by Osama bin Laden declaring a holy war on the United States. . . .

One of the primary reasons Mr. bin Laden exerted so much influence over Afghanistan was clearly his relationship with Mullah Muhammad Omar, the one-time clerk who rose to become spiritual leader of the Taliban, which sealed control over most of Afghanistan after taking over Kabul in 1996.

Insiders say Mullah Omar and Mr. bin Laden spent many hours in deep discussion of the intricacies of Islam, often by the light of kerosene lamps in the hideouts both men resorted to as the world's pressures against them mounted. Mr. bin Laden played to the mullah's vanity by declaring him caliph, a title reserved through the 1,400-year history of Islam for the leader of the faithful.

In turn, the Taliban leader turned his back on most of the rest of the world to support his patron. . . .

Mr. bin Laden swore "bayat," an Islamic oath of fealty, to Mullah Omar. By January of this year, at the wedding of one of his sons, the terrorist leader began to call Mullah Omar the caliph.

In return, the Taliban leader provided a base and protection for Al Qaeda, Mr. bin Laden's organization, and assented as Mr. bin Laden sent out videotapes calling on Muslims worldwide to commit their sons and their money to the terrorist camps he established in the remote deserts and mountains of Afghanistan . . .

Not all of the Arabs, Pakistanis and others who went to Afghanistan to fight were members of Al Qaeda, but those who were received special treatment as the royalty of terrorism.

Residents of Kabul complained this week that they lived under a virtual occupation by Arabs and Pakistanis during the Taliban's rule. They described thousands of Pakistanis and Arabs roaming the streets of the city as an elite that enforced its own strict moral and religious code on the population. . . .

As the power of Mr. bin Laden and his network grew, so did the rumors. Commanders of the rebel Northern Alliance said Mullah Omar had turned into a puppet of the terrorist leader. . .

Along with the personal bond between the two men, there was the Taliban's deepening financial dependence on Mr. bin Laden, whose fortune may have run dry in the 1990's but who remained a conduit for millions of dollars donated to his cause through charities and front organizations by wealthy Saudis and other Arabs. . . .

The money built hospitals and training camps for terrorists, and, intelligence officials said, bought weapons for the Taliban and the Arabs and other Muslims who flocked to Afghanistan. . . .

But items left in the ministry building and houses occupied by Al Qaeda members showed that the Taliban government aided the terrorist network's operations inside Afghanistan.

Documents showed that Al Qaeda was closely integrated with the Taliban Ministry of Defense in the field. . . .
and the location of the camps? In fact, the camps were deep in Taliban territory.

Al Farouq training camp was at the airport in Kandahar. You know, the HEART of Taliban control. The first regional capital seized by the Taliban. The one we just ejected them from last fall.

Tarnak Farms--Al Qaeda camp, you guessed it, near the airport in Kandahar. Its where Mohammed Atta and Ziad Jarrah recorded their wills. Remember those guys? The were 9/11 hijackers.

Derunta, near Jalalabad. Actually 4 camps. Jalalabad was in Taliban hands from the mid-1990s.

Khalden--was NOT an al Qaeda camp, but trained many terrorists, including 9/11 hijackers. The fact it wasn't an al Qaeda camp shows that the Taliban were state sponsoring other terrorist organizations as well.

Persons who trained there:
Ahmed Ajaj participated in 1993 WTC bombing
Ahmed Ressam LAX "millennium bomber". Admitted attending the camp beginning in April 1998 for five to six months, and says that he met Zacarias Moussaoui there.
Ibrahim Elgabrowny participated in 1993 WTC bombing
Mahmoud Abouhalima participated in 1993 WTC bombing
Majed Moqed 911 hijacker
Mohamed Rashid al-Owhali attended in 1997 participated in the bombings of US embassies in Africa
Mohamed Atta 911 hijacker
Ramzi Yousef participated in 1993 WTC bombing
Richard Reid shoe bomber
Saajid Badat tried to be a shoe bomber
Satam al-Suqami 911 hijacker

The facts speak for themselves.

There is simply no basis to argue that the Taliban were not state-sponsors of al Qaeda. None. The facts are literally undisputed.

al Qaeda was the most state-sponsored terrorist organization, ever.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:47 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Should we start bombing Pakistan now that OBL is thought to reside there?

huh? We ARE bombing Pakistan because OBL is thought to reside there. Doesn't anyone read the paper?
posted by Ironmouth at 4:48 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


First, the Patriot Act suspends half the Bill of Rights.

Cite, with facts, where it "suspends half the bill of rights." Its a crappy bill, one that I opposed. It should be repealed. But it does not "suspend half the bill of rights."

If people are going to make assertions, they should back them up with facts.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:49 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let me explain it to you very simply. America turned off the Constitution permanently over a single attack no greater in magnitude than hundreds of similar things that the US has done from the Trail of Tears to Fallujah.

Please. turned off the constitution permanently? I suspect that in the last decade many thousands of times the exclusionary rule was applied to exclude evidence from US Courts.

the hyperbole is getting high in here.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:57 PM on January 21, 2011


I must go, I'm out of time.

Some good links there regarding material support from the Taliban and must concede part of that - on first read though there is still no evidence that any Taliban member had the slightest idea that the 9/11 attack was coming. And again, if participating in attacks on other countries were any metric, the US government should have been overthrown many times.

As I explained before, if the government indicates that it is not bound by the Constitution, then it is broken, even if 99 times out of the 100 the government does in fact choose to do so. As long as the government continues to claim that the Constitution only has advisory status, it is broken.

The Patriot Act and its application intersects at least four and probably five of the ten clauses of the Bill of Rights, in my opinion.

Good evening.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:06 PM on January 21, 2011


The argument is that any statements he made after being tortured can't be used against him.
This is not a legal doctrine I've ever heard of in my years of practice.


Let's be clear here. Any statement obtained when someone is tortured is inadmissable. A statement made by a defendant at anytime, not obtained by torture, is admissible.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:14 PM on January 21, 2011


huh? We ARE bombing Pakistan because OBL is thought to reside there. Doesn't anyone read the paper?

Sorry, let me put things in context for you again. I know it's super hard. You seem exasperated.

We are not bombing the Pakistani capital demanding that the Pakistani government turn over bin Laden, even though the ISI and the Taliban have long been suspected of working together to hide him. We wouldn't bomb Beijing to demand that they turn him over, or bomb Riyadh until the Saudi government clamps down on funding for Al Qaeda. Afghanistan was a weak state, just like Iraq, and just like Iraq it served as a scapegoat for 9/11.

But you're right - we are killing a ton of Pakistanis with unmanned Predator drones. I'm sure the trade off of fomenting anti-Americanism in a nuclear armed Islamic state is a fair trade for extra-judicial murder of civilians mistaken for terrorism suspects.
posted by notion at 5:16 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Patriot Act and its application intersects at least four and probably five of the ten clauses of the Bill of Rights, in my opinion.

Cite, please--stop saying stuff without evidence. You stated the best evidence available said that al Qaeda wasn't state-sponsored and that the camps. Yet the overwhelming evidence is indisputable. How can I trust the other stuff?

As for the Taliban not knowing about 9/11 and there being "no evidence" let's see a cite on that as your earlier "best evidence" turned out to be without factual basis whatsoever.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:21 PM on January 21, 2011


Let's be clear here. Any statement obtained when someone is tortured is inadmissable. A statement made by a defendant at anytime, not obtained by torture, is admissible.

But the problem is separating the two. This guy was tortured 183 times! At least. Once the torture program has begun how do you differentiate between those statements elicited as a result of torture and those that weren't? Do we use the Joe In Australia "well he doesn't look like he's being coerced to me right now" method? His torturers could just have easily have told him to wait a few months after a session to say something or risk more waterboarding. I guess you could say that at the pace they were going more waterboarding might have seemed like a fairly hollow threat.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 5:41 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


There most likely is "untainted" evidence against KSM. He was very active for a long period of time, and it is completely reasonable that letters/recordings/statements/accomplices would be more than enough. I mean really, they have him nailed to a wall. They didn't torture KSM to get evidence against him, they had that. They tortured him for intel on his active organization.
posted by rosswald at 9:21 PM on January 21, 2011


Has anyone mentioned the Nazis yet?
posted by dougrayrankin at 5:03 AM on January 22, 2011


If there was enough untainted evidence to secure a conviction, he would have been tried and convicted. Most likely there is, if anything, only enough such evidence to get some lesser conviction such as conspiracy or money laundering. They probably feel that anything less than a federal death sentence for masterminding 9/11 would be viewed as a humiliating defeat in the courts, and they probably have tainted all the evidence they would need to go for something like that.

In any event, whether there is untainted evidence or not, you present what you have to a judge and jury and let it go. Every day he sits in legal limbo we are a nation of men not of laws.
posted by localroger at 7:10 AM on January 22, 2011


I mean really, they have him nailed to a wall. They didn't torture KSM to get evidence against him, they had that. They tortured him for intel on his active organization.

And they didn't get anything useful, because even if he told them the truth, it would have been lost in a haze of lies. People being tortured will say anything to make the torture stop.

Remember the Inquisition? You might have heard about that. They used torture to find heretics and witches. Somehow, incredibly, they got confession after confession.

Under the knife, there is a never-ending succession of heretics terrorists.
posted by Malor at 7:38 AM on January 22, 2011


"And they didn't get anything useful"

Cite?

Obviously he shouldn't have been tortured, and instead immediately "tribunaled," but I am sure that KSM provided a lot of useful information.

I mean, he was a BIG get, and I am sure every pronoun, every adjective he uttered was investigated. Was a lot of it BS? I wouldn't be surprised, but I would also be shocked that they tortured this guy this many times without getting verifiable intel.
posted by rosswald at 1:39 PM on January 22, 2011


Oh, there were several articles about all the useless crap he spewed. It's absolutely accepted by interrogation professionals that torture is useless, because you don't get useful data from it. Rather, you end up with a bunch of garbage that you have to spend endless hours chasing.

I'll see if I can scare up some references.

My first comment in this thread, about KSM confessing to blowing up buildings that weren't yet constructed when he was jailed, is an example.
posted by Malor at 1:56 PM on January 22, 2011


er, rather, confessing to PLOTTING to blow up the buildings, not actually blowing them up. :)
posted by Malor at 1:57 PM on January 22, 2011


Ok, here's an article from an actual FBI interrogator, claiming we prevented no plots and saved no lives by torturing ANY terrorism suspect, not just KSM.

If you prefer video links, here's a video of his testimony in the Senate. I haven't watched that, I just spotted it while searching.

In this article, KSM claims he lied to stop torture.

A PDF link from the Intelligence Science Board (which I gather is some kind of government agency) says that there's no scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness.

You can find some stuff claiming that it works, but what you'll always find is that it's politicians making that claim, where the actual experts say that's bullshit.

So, even if you ignore the GIGANTIC VAST moral problems in torturing someone that's just suspected of a crime (and those issues alone are so pressing that I think they override any utilitarian argument).... even if you look at it purely from a standpoint of effectiveness, it gains us nothing we can't gain from regular interrogation.
posted by Malor at 2:17 PM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oops, dammit, hit post instead of preview. Adding on:

.... Rather, because of the torrent of false information gathered through physical duress, intelligence collection is actually less effective with torture than with simple questioning. (I say "simple", but it's actually a highly complex art, involving a great deal of psychological manipulation.) Regular interrogation techniques work. Torture is much less useful.

It's also worth pointing out that when the Japanese waterboarded our soldiers during WW2, we put them on trial for war crimes and executed them. It was a war crime then, and it's a war crime now.
posted by Malor at 2:22 PM on January 22, 2011


Doublewhiskeycokenoice wrote: Once the torture program has begun how do you differentiate between those statements elicited as a result of torture and those that weren't? Do we use the Joe In Australia "well he doesn't look like he's being coerced to me right now" method? His torturers could just have easily have told him to wait a few months after a session to say something or risk more waterboarding.

Or they could just have created a fake transcript, which is probably simpler than coming up with some brainwashing method that will allow them to reliably force a subject to correctly respond to questions given in a long interview, and then deliver a coherent two-page speech justifying his actions.

Any confession can be questioned - and the defense will typically do so. I'm sure the fact that he had previously been tortured would be a major part of the defense's argument. None the less, the confession exists. You might exclude it as being inadmissible, you might argue that it's false, but these are all arguments that would be made in court. I have to say that if I were a juror presented with that confession I would take it seriously, and I would think that your Manchurian Candidate argument was implausible.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:50 PM on January 22, 2011


People break when you torture them, Joe, break psychologically. Once you've tortured someone, all further testimony from them is suspect.
posted by Malor at 5:15 PM on January 22, 2011


I have to say that if I were a juror presented with that confession I would take it seriously, and I would think that your Manchurian Candidate argument was implausible.

Manchurian Candidate! This is rich! Now, telling someone to give a believable confession in a few months, or risk further torture (which we know his captors were/are willing to do), is equivalent to programming someone to kill when a special password is spoken.

Me, I'm more inclined to work with a rebuttable presumption that anything a person says after being tortured is coerced. I think torture is just that bad.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 5:57 PM on January 22, 2011


I stumbled upon KSM's New Yorker profile a while ago. It was fascinating. Reading it I learned more about the events leading up to the attacks than in all the news following I had done. Maybe this isn't the best place to share it, but hopefully someone will find it as interesting as I did.
posted by papafrita at 6:02 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find your numbers breathtakingly low - to claim, for example, that Iraq has suffered only 100,000 in excess mortality since the start of the Iraq war

As compared to what? Do you have an estimate that isn't from the Iraqi government?

You're still talking a million innocent people murdered by America's military.

Um, no. If you read the links, the 800,000 figure from Vietnam includes civilians killed by the Viet Cong. Although given that you appear to take the highest possible estimate as gospel, I don't think any parsing of the numbers would make any difference to you. Should I include the 500,000 killed when the North Vietnamese liquidated intellectuals and put its citizens into re-education camps? Or the deaths of Iraqis engineered by the Hussein government to punish political dissenters after the first Iraq War?

So electroboy - what's your total then?

I'm not the one making a claim about how many "innocent" people have been killed by the United States government.

My question is this, given the enormity of the crimes you attribute to America, how can you stand by and do nothing?
posted by electroboy at 1:26 PM on January 23, 2011


One thing he's doing is trying to teach you about what's actually going on, which you are apparently largely impervious to. It's exceptionally well-documented; when he/she makes the claims of so many lives lost from our covert wars and military actions, there's no exaggeration going on. It's not some liberal plot to discredit the country, it's the truth.

If you remain that oblivious, even after being taught how to answer these questions for yourself from solid, substantiated sources, imagine how hard it is to convince the people that actually benefit from all this killing.
posted by Malor at 6:57 AM on January 24, 2011


Another thought: you have to go look up the facts and construct your own narrative of what's been going on. The people doing this will present any number of different stories to cast themselves in the best possible light. They will never, never, not ever line up all the facts for you and tell you a coherent narrative. You have to do that for yourself.

Few people bother, which they know, and rely on.
posted by Malor at 7:03 AM on January 24, 2011


One thing he's doing is trying to teach you about what's actually going on

No, he's taking the highest estimate from unreliable sources and making unsubstantiated claims based on those sources. The original statement was something to the effect of the US being responsible for millions of deaths in his lifetime. This is pretty clearly factually incorrect, since he was neither alive during Vietnam (which would contribute the bulk of the "millions" claim), nor did he actually cite any sources.

I'm not arguing the rightness or wrongness of Vietnam or central american coups, just the wrongness of his figures.

They will never, never, not ever line up all the facts for you and tell you a coherent narrative. You have to do that for yourself.

Oh please, could you condescend any more? Are you so wrapped up your own worldview that you're unable to conceive of someone looking at the same information and drawing a different conclusion?
posted by electroboy at 8:16 AM on January 24, 2011


I'd argue that modern image and video compression techniques would make identifying veins tremendously difficult, unless the resolution was very high and the picture very clear. This is because almost all of the "blue" information is stripped out of a compressed image. Essentially, our eyes suck at blue, and almost all modern technology for handling images and video takes this into account. Technical discussion here: news.ycombinator.com
posted by Freen at 2:17 AM on January 27, 2011


America used to really be the good guys, and just being the good guys saved a lot of American lives

And not being the good guys, the opposite. Here are two excerpts from Charles Lindbergh's wartime memoirs when he was in the South Pacific. They are rather offensive, so be warned.

June 21, 1944:
General's account of killing a Japanese soldier: A technical sergeant in an advanced area some weeks ago complained that he had been with combat forces in the Pacific for over two years and never had a chance to do any fighting himself - that he would like the chance to kill at least one Jap before he went home. He was invited to out on a patrol into enemy territory.
The sergeant saw no Jap to shoot, but members of the patrol took a prisoner. The Jap prisoner was brought to the sergeant with the statement that here was his opportunity to kill a Jap.
"But I can't kill that man! He's a prisoner. He's defenseless."
"Hell, this is war. We'll show you how to kill the son of a bitch."
One of the patrol members offered the Jap a cigarette and a light, and as he started to smoke an arm was thrown around his head and his throat was "slit from ear to ear."
The entire procedure was thoroughly approved by the general giving the account. I was regarded with an attitude of tolerant scorn and pity when I objected to the method and said that if we had to kill a prisoner I thought we ought to do it in a decent and civilized way. "The sons of bitches do it to us. It's the only way to handle them."
Sept. 9, 1944 :
Before the bodies in the hollow were "bulldozed over," the officer said, a number of our Marines went in among them, searching through their pockets and prodding around in their mouths for gold-filled teeth. Some of the Marines, he said, had a little sack in which they collected teeth with gold fillings. The officer said he had seen a number of Japanese bodies from which an ear or nose had been cut off. "Our boys cut them off to show their friends in fun, or to dry and take back to the States when they go. We found one Marine with a Japanese head. He was trying to get the ants to clean the flesh off the skull, but the odor got so bad we had to take it away from him." It is the same story everywhere I go.
I'm not finding it now, but I believe Lindbergh expressed the though that such behavior by U.S. troops was a reason for the fierce resistance in the Japanese defense of the Pacific islands.
posted by exogenous at 9:37 AM on January 27, 2011


Lindbergh was an aviator, so he was hearing these things 2nd hand at best. He was also known for being a huge racist and nazi sympathizer, so I think anything Lindbergh said outside of the field of aviation should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
posted by electroboy at 10:39 AM on January 27, 2011


Lindbergh was an aviator, so he was hearing these things 2nd hand at best.

I thought the excerpts I typed up made clear that these were second hand accounts related directly to Lindbergh. Nonetheless, the uncivilized treatment of Japanese POWs and their mortal remains at the hands of U.S. troops is a constant theme of the period of his memoirs when he was in the Pacific, and I have no doubt it was widespread. I don't see any reason for anyone involved to be making stuff up.

He was also known for being a huge racist and nazi sympathizer, so I think anything Lindbergh said outside of the field of aviation should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

Lindbergh was a racist, so his accounts of systematic mistreatment of Japanese prisoners should be taken with a grain of salt? One would think racist tendencies would excuse abuse of the "Asiatic intruder" (quoting from your second link).
posted by exogenous at 11:53 AM on January 27, 2011


Lindbergh was a racist, so his accounts of systematic mistreatment of Japanese prisoners should be taken with a grain of salt?

No, the fact that Lindbergh has no firsthand knowledge of the events, he was famously against WW2 and his strong racial biases suggest that he should be taken with a grain of salt.
posted by electroboy at 12:25 PM on January 27, 2011


Whatever
posted by exogenous at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2011


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